posted on Aug, 18 2011 @ 06:27 PM
Since its inception, most Americans are and have been deeply ignorant of what the founding principles of this nation are, and have had to have them
forced upon them time and time again. From the very first settler to set foot on the shore to the latest immigrant to raise his or her right hand and
swear allegiance to this nation, all have come here seeking freedom. The words freedom and liberty are almost synonymous with America, the “Land of
the Free and the Home of the Brave”. This is the first nation on earth that was founded on the principle that each and every individual citizen has
the same rights and freedoms as every other citizen. It is based on the rights and freedoms of the individual, not the will of the majority or the
decree of those who govern the nation.
To make sure that we are all on the same page, let us clarify the definitions of these important concepts:
Rights- (noun) That which are due to anyone by just claim, legal guarantees, moral principles, etc.
Freedom- (noun) An absence of undue restrictions and an opportunity to exercise one's rights and powers.
Freedom emphasizes the opportunity given for the exercise of one's rights, powers, desires, or the like.
Liberty- (noun) Freedom from control, interference, obligation, restriction, hampering conditions, etc.; power or right of doing, thinking,
speaking, etc., according to choice.
The majority of settlers who came to the New World came here for religious freedom. The Puritans, Quakers, Mennonites, Dunkers, Schwenkfelders,
Moravians as well as the Jews and the Catholics all came here for the freedom to follow their religions without the rebuke of the State or their
neighbors. This was the spark that lit the American ideal of freedom. It was so important to them that they would spend weeks traveling across an
ocean and then battle the harsh conditions of an untamed land.
When the American Colonists finally had enough of the oppression of the English Throne, these principles were put into writing in the Declaration
“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights,
that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”
These were new and foreign concepts at the time. Before this there had never been a nation that was ruled and governed by its people, and there was
never a government that stressed and valued the rights and freedoms of the individual. The State had always come before the individual citizen.
This concept of individual rights and freedoms was further clarified in the U.S. Constitution. In fact, it was considered so important that it
was not even included in the body of the original document, but instead was separated and placed in the first ten amendments to the Constitution: The
Bill of Rights. The very first individual right mentioned in the Bill of Rights is the very same one that brought the original settlers to the
Americas in the first place, freedom of religion. Added to this was freedom of the press, freedom of speech, freedom of assembly, the right to bear
arms, and many legal rights such as the right against illegal search and seizure, the right to a speedy trial and the right to a trial by one’s
The first clear case of Americans having to be forced into upholding these principles was with the abolishment of slavery in the 1860’s. While
it was not the primary cause of the Civil War, it was a major contributing factor. Many Americans refused to see those of African descent as even
being human, let alone deserving of the same rights and freedoms that they enjoyed. It took a bloody and costly war to make them fall in line with
these principles, though just barely.
The next test of the American people was the Women’s Suffrage Movement at the turn of the twentieth century. Again it took a great deal of
effort to get American men to realize that women were just as worthy of the rights and freedoms at the core of the American Constitution as men were.
After a long and tough campaign to get the basic right to vote, the Women’s Suffrage Movement celebrated victory in 1920 with the addition of the
19th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.
A case where the Constitution was amended in defiance of these principles was with the addition of the 18th Amendment, which began the period
known as Prohibition. While the government can and should regulate what and how a person behaves in public, for it to dictate what that same citizen
could do in private was against the core principles set forth by our Founding Fathers. This was a case of religious zealots imposing their will on
the nation, in direct defiance of the 1st Amendment, which not only guarantees the freedom of religion, but also guarantees freedom from religion.
This mistake was rectified in 1933 with the 21st Amendment which repealed the 18th Amendment.
Another tumultuous example of Americans having to be forced to live up to these principles was the Civil Rights Movement of the 1950’s and
1960’s. Many civil rights leaders were murdered, many riots ensued, and it was the Supreme Court in many cases that had to force state and local
governments into compliance with the Constitution and its founding principles. Through the bravery of such individuals as Rosa Parks, Medgar Evers,
and Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., we finally began to fully recognize the individual rights and freedoms of those citizens of color. It should be
noted that we still have far to go in this regard with a great number of citizens, but forward progress was made.
It was around this same time that the question of prayer in school and religious icons on public grounds and in public buildings came up. While
many still insist that this is a Christian nation, and it was indeed founded by Christians, our Founding Fathers went to great lengths to establish
not a Christian nation, but a secular one. The 1st Amendment and its implied freedom from religion dictate that no one single religion be sanctioned
or supported in any way by the State. Since our citizenry is of many faiths or no faith at all, it is improper for any single religion’s prayer or
icons be given preference over others. So once again Americans had to be forced into compliance. It should be noted that religious references can
still be found in the Pledge of Allegiance and on our currency.
In the 1970’s the Women’s Movement and the Equal Rights Amendment came to the forefront as the Civil Rights Movement was wrapping up.
Before this time women found it very difficult to find employment, when they did they were paid far less than a man in the same position. They were
expected to stay home and raise a family while the husband went out and had a career. While the ERA was never passed and added to the Constitution,
the battle for equal rights by women did see them enter the workforce and forge a new path for the role of women in American society.
The current challenge to these founding principles is the Gay Rights Movement. There are a large number of conservative Americans who see this
as special rights, not equal rights. This stems from a belief that homosexuality is wrong, and that it is against nature which comes from
Judeo-Christian philosophy. But again the general population is being drug into compliance with those principles that make American great. The
recent repeal of the nation’s “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy and the passage in many states of gay marriage or at least marriage equality
laws show that it is happening slowly but surely.
The reason that we have to be shown the way at each and every step is purely human nature. We are just wired to form groups and to believe that
our group is the only group who is right, and other groups are substandard and not worthy of the same rights and privileges that we enjoy. In the
end, however, the Constitution and its principles of the rights and freedoms of the individual will always win out.