Sunday, August 15, 2010

How free are we?

I read an article the other day that got the wheels moving in my brain. I've been thinking a lot about the freedoms granted in the Bill of Rights and how they are abused in many instances. Let me begin by saying that I support and fully believe in the Constitution and the Bill of Rights as being divinely inspired ideas that have be misunderstood at times by the general population. But we must recognize that every action, no matter how free we are, has a consequence.

The gist of the article was that Target has exercised their newly legal right to contribute company funds to political candidates in support of a candidate who is "an outspoken opponent of gay marriage." Well, the gay and lesbian community sees this as offensive and immediately calls for an apology and a boycott of Target. So, thus far we have one group exercising a right which offends a second group, so the second group retaliates by exercising a right to harm the first group. The real kicker in the article for me was reading that the homosexual community expects Target to match the initial contribution towards another candidate who is pro-gay marriage. As they say, "The repair has to be consistent with the harm that was done."

This doesn't seem right to me. I have opinions and you have opinions, and chances are that those opinions will offend other people around us. That is a consequence of being able to voice out thoughts freely. It does not mean that we should change our opinions or that our views are wrong. It simply means that others see things differently. If we were forced to change our views every time someone was offended we would lose our freedom of speech and religion. If Target, as a company, has an opinion about who they want in government they have the right to show their opinion with the money they have earned. To force them into a position of supporting someone financially that they otherwise would not support is wrong. I have nothing against a boycott of companies that you disagree with in principle. That is also an exercise of free speech that has it's own consequences. Just don't trample on the freedom of others along the way.

Along these same lines is the Muslim community advocating a mosque be built near Ground Zero in New York City. Is it within their rights? Absolutely. Should it be done. No! It is disrespectful to everyone intimately connected to the attacks on 9/11, as well as to our country as a whole. There are numerous other mosques throughout New York City, which are a testament to the free exercise of religion we enjoy in America. I understand that the majority of the Muslim community is peaceful and we should not punish them for the actions of a splinter group who do not live peacefully, but they should be understanding of people feeling this is inappropriate. I could continue on this subject, but I will not.

I guess what I'm really getting at is respect and self-control. Respect for our freedoms by exercising them with careful judgment. Respect for others by not blatantly using our freedoms to do harm. Respecting the nature of consequences for actions and being willing to accept those consequences. It has become popular in society to just do things because we can, because it's within our rights. Judgment and restraint are all but gone from our minds. And the government feeds that mentality by telling us that we are entitled to everything under the sun and that they should be the ones to provide it for us.

Yes, we are the most free people in the world, but exercising our rights and freedoms does not absolve us of the consequences of our actions.

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Recent Frustrations

It's been a while since I've blogged. I was without a computer for a couple of weeks, which meant that I was away from the internet as my source for information. Luckily, our computer was still under warranty for one more week, so we had our hard drive replaced completely for free. Thanks Apple! It's taken a little bit of time to get back into the swing of things and catch up on major events. I'm sure I missed a lot that I'm not even aware of yet. While I was away I did get to watch a number of documentaries thanks to Netflix. You can learn about some of the more interesting ones here, here, and here. That last link should not be confused with this, but you may see a correlation between the two.

Now that I am back in the saddle (figuratively), I would like to take the time to clear a few thoughts all at once. I'm frustrated and saddened by the some of the recent actions by the various branches of our government. It's seems apparent that the checks and balances system built into our original system has been overtaken and destroyed by our current government system. The initial intent of checks and balances was so that no one branch of government became so overly powerful that it could abuse and use the citizens. But within the last month we have witnessed each of the three branches of government abuse power, unchecked and unbalanced by either of the other branches. Let's review them, starting with the Executive Branch:

First, we saw our Executive Branch, which has the responsibility to enforce the laws passed by the Legislature and to appoint judges within the Judicial system, begin a legal struggle with the state of Arizona over immigration. Regardless of your opinion on the issue itself, when the Federal Government begins suing states over their right to protect the citizens we have a real problem. It's a divisive tactic to say the least, and one that I'm sure is being employed intentionally. You may have heard the old adage that a house divided against itself cannot stand. If the federal government can orchestrate a series of events that would pit state against state, and people against people, our country would be ripe for a sweeping change in government action that will put us on a quick path towards communism. In this instance, the Fed is saying that the people of Arizona don't know what is good for themselves, so it requires someone else to tell them what is good for their state. This is a blatant overstepping of bounds and powers as much as Obamacare is a blatant overstepping of bounds and powers. And when states, like Missouri, vote to exempt themselves from Obamacare we hear the White House respond by saying that five million votes mean nothing to them.

Which brings me to our Legislative Branch. I just mentioned Obamacare, which was the dreamchild of the President, but put into play by the Legislature. We've witnessed the ill side-effects of the Bailout, which was started by Bush and finished under Obama. In recent weeks it is the Financial Reform bill that was passed that will cause more ill side-effects. These things, along with a number of other things like them, are reasons why California Representative Pete Stark would feel comfortable telling his constituents "I think that there are very few Constitutional limits that would prevent the federal government from rules that could affect your private life...The Federal government can do most anything." For a while I've been thinking how contradictory it is for us to expect honesty and virtue from our elected representatives when, by and large, we choose them from among the ranks of lawyers. Haven't we all heard jokes and generalizations about the dishonest nature of lawyers. It's nothing new and yet we continue to put lying and cheating lawyers in charge of creating laws that they can take advantage of in the future.

This leaves the Judicial Branch. It has long been a fear, even among our founders, that if a judge were given too much power we would find laws being produced in court instead of being interpreted. I've heard the term "Activist Judge" being used. I fully expect to see this now that we are getting Supreme Court Judges appointed who have no judicial experience at all. It's a scary thought to me that I would expect a judge to use the law to protect the innocent and punish the guilty, but in some cases the law is being interpreted and used to further a hidden agenda. Which brings me to the judge in California ruling that the constitutional amendment, now known a Prop 8, twice approved by the people of the state is unconstitutional. Gay rights is a topic for another day, but in this case the judge was being an activist for his own cause, as he is gay himself. In his response he mentioned that marriage is a bigoted institution used to put down homosexuals and that the people were voting for it based on morals rather than laws. I find this outrageous! Two times the people of California have voted on the issue in support of traditional marriage, and both time a judge has told them that what they think doesn't matter. Seven million people in California don't matter. Also, our legal system has its origins in Judeo-Christian law, which is a moral code and was so long before our government was established. And if a judge can somehow magically discern the motives behind peoples votes could we please get one of these judges to say that Obama shouldn't be President because most people voted for him because he's black and not because of his qualifications.

The three branches of our government have become three superpowers struggling for total control of the best country on earth and we, the people, are the ones being hit with the bombs while they fight. We should be aware, as were our founders, that government derives its power by the consent of those that are governed. We are watching our government take power unto itself, without care or concern for us. It is a virus that is spreading in Washington D.C. If we are not careful it will spread through the entire country.