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A scholar recently wrote that "The Constitution of the United States along with its 27 amendments defines the opportunities, rights, priveleges and obligations of its population.". It is important to note that the scholar wrote "...of its population." rather than of only the citizens or of the leaders. This is important because the first and foremost opportunity the United States' offers is the freedom to immigrate into our borders and not be denied entrance and, after a period of time, citizenship. The meaning of "the population" is that all people living or immigrating to the United States are under the protection of the law and are held accountable for any law they break. Because of this ability to enter and gain citizenship, the whole population have certain rights and obligations that are laid upon them.
The opportunities that the Constitution of the United States offers are varied and often vague. Detailing the powers and restrictions on the central government, such as laying national taxes, forming and using a militia for war, forming government post offices, and restricting the making of laws that violate states’ rights and the right to Habeas Corpus. There is only one article of the Constitution (Article IV: Relations Among the States) that mentions the rights of the people. Article four states, that “The citizens of each state shall be entitled to all privileges and immunities of Citizens in the several States (Article four section two part one).” but never elaborates on what those privileges and immunities are. It could be said that the constitution outlined the rights of the government, which is why the Anti-Federalists called for the Bills of Rights, rights for the people, when the Constitution was first published.
The amendments carry their own power and outline the rights of the people, restrict the central government and define what the government should do in certain situations. Three of these 27 set boundaries on the government, 16 protect the rights of the people, seven explain what to do in a given situation and one directly defines the rights of the states. Four of the 16 amendments that define the rights of the people directly address the right to vote, and four that address the people's rights to just, orderly trials. Which means that the rights of the people can be summed in six basic rights: the freedom of speech, right to keep and bear arms, right to privacy, right to a trial by jury, right to citizenship and the due process of laws. It is important to understand what those rights mean and why they are important.
The right to a trial by jury and the due process of laws are relatively simple to explain, they ensure that the people will have the opportunity to defend themselves for any crime they commit and to promote accuracy within the verdict. It is true that there still are trials where the people have been wrongly imprisoned, based on evidence that was construed against them, and in the cociety today it seems that "hard evidence" has become words that are unverafiable. But nevertheless, these two rights are important because without them wrongful imprisonment would become an epidemic. The right to privacy is the ability to prevent ones home or properties to be searched without cause and to deny a soldier board in ones home, this amendment stems from the British occupation of the colonies, where soldiers would search houses at random and quarter in the homes of colonists, often making a mess. The importance of this right is simply to prevent events similar to those of the British occupation.
The second amendment contains two rights: the right of the people to bear arms and the state's right to keep a militia (hence, the National Guard). The right to keep and bear arms is one of the most controversial rights in the United States today. Some argue that having guns is problematic and leads to more crime; others argue that if everybody owned a gun and knew how to use it, crime would be diminished because laws restricting gun use only work on those who obey the law. Either way, this right was established so that the people could defend themselves lawfully against another entity, hunt, or use them for sport (such as fencing, skeet shooting, and archery), and ties to the state's militia. Being able to keep and bear arms allowed the common people to be used for military force, much like Minutemen or a volunteer fire department.
Interestingly enough the right to citizenship has also become slightly problematic in recent years, mostly because immigrants come to the U.S. (legally or otherwise) and have children within the U.S. so that their children may claim citizenship under the first clause 14th amendment "All person born or naturalized in the United States and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the State wherein they reside.". Take note, that the amendment says 'subject to the Jurisdiction' which implies an adherence to law. Shown in the fact that migrant citizens are able to lose their citizenship and be exported.
However, knowing that the 14th amendment was added to address the issue of slavery, and was instituted to grant citizenship to freed slaves the rest of the amendment should be remembered "No state shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the priveleges or immunities of citizens on the United States; nor shall any state deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws." which was an effort to prevent things such as 'equal but separate' acts and 'Jim Crow' laws. However, the decisions of congress and the supremecourt were not upheld until late in 20th century, as is well know
The first amendment is the most quoted and well-known amendment, because it guarantees the right to communication in the form of speech, writing, religion, and the use of those to petition or protest against issues or aspects of the government. In essence, the first amendment is the free communication of ideals through argumentation. This ability to present ones views in a structured argument is the basis of a democracy, because a democracy is the “rule of the people” without the ability of the people communicate their views, democracy would not be a democracy. It is this amendment that has the most effect on the United States, without it the other amendments are useless, for it is in the ability to communicate that protects and develops the other rights and amendments
Imagine for a moment that the first amendment was omited, or otherwise gone. What good would a jury be if the defendant and accuser could not present their cases to the jury? How would the right to vote exist if we were not free to speak; isn't voting an active form of speech? How would we be able to keep our right to privacy and defend ourselves against unwarrented seizure or searches if we could say our rights were being jeopardized? The answer is roughly the same for all: without speech, that is: 'communication', the spirit of the Constitution and its amendments is dead.
There is a faint line between the rights and obligations of U.S. citizens, and that line is essentially the difference of selfishness and servitude. The rights of a citizen are those things that a citizen can claim as his own and an obligation are those small things, like paying taxes, that serve the United States. But, the rights of a citizen impact their obligations, because the obligations of a citizen are the rights of the government in action. The government has the right to lay and collect a tax, so it is the obligation of citizens to pay their taxes. Yet the quantity that is payed is dictated by the voice of the people, because of citizens' right to speak and ability influence the government, the government is obligated to act upon the majority voice.
In conclusion, the Constitutional Democracy of the United States will be challenged this century. Developing technologies and a global community calls for interpreting the constitution differently than even ten years ago. The struggle the United States will face, is keeping track of her identity, that of democracy, in a changing world.