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What the BILL OF RIGHTS means to me in today's
July 4, 2000
Crafted by a generation of patriotic activists who passionately loved freedom
and condemned tyranny, the Bill of Rights is like a star that guides our nation.
The Bill of Rights protects the personal, political, and religious beliefs and
liberties of every individual American from destruction by an oppressive,
unjust, powerful central government. The Founders envisioned limited government
as the servant of the people -- not as the people's master. Influenced by the
Enlightenment, the Founders affirmed individual rights. They enumerated the
basic human rights of American citizens, deliberately validating the dignity and
worth of each and every individual person. The high-minded values and noble
principles and ideals contained in the Bill of Rights have inspired human beings
in authoritarian regimes worldwide to risk death by attempting to escape to
The Bill of Rights establishes a safe mechanism for any unhappy American citizen
who is disenchanted with the establishment to challenge and alter the status
quo. The First Amendment to the Bill of Rights inspires American citizens to
shape the nation's destiny through dissent and protest. The First Amendment
keeps the country focused, oriented, balanced and on the right track. Countries
that deny this right to their inhabitants are amongst the most inhumane and
wretched places on earth.
The First Amendment to the Bill of Rights guarantees speech and press freedoms,
religious freedom and the right to peaceable assembly. Citizens are permitted to
picket, leaflet and demonstrate. They may criticize the government, hold public
officials accountable, contribute to political campaigns and vote. Citizens have
the right to petition the government to correct grievances. They can gather in
private or public to discuss and/or debate important issues. They have a right
to influence the media.
Gaps have always existed between the reality of American life and the idealism
of America's founding values and principles. When the laws or practices of this
country permit behaviors that are unacceptable, it is essential that
disillusioned American citizens exercise their first amendment rights to protest
how they are governed, the political process, and civil society. To protest by
following the dictates of one's conscience is a very American activity. It is an
obligation and responsibility of American citizenship.
Previous generations have abolished slavery, extended the voting franchise to
women and Blacks, illegalized segregation, legalized abortion and provided equal
opportunity. My generation has witnessed Americans demonstrating for peace,
reproductive rights, civil rights, gay and lesbian rights, equal rights, animal
rights, eco-environmentalism, and against war, the fur industry, nuclear energy,
the World Trade Organization (WTO), the International Monetary Fund (IMF) -
World Bank, and biotechnology.
The Bill of Rights means that individuals and social groups with competing ideas
and values about government, politics, religion, and social-cultural
institutions may still peacefully challenge each other. Each generation of
American citizens is given an opportunity to transform the United States of
America into an even more civil society for future generations of the nation's
children to live in. What a unique country we are!
On a personal level, I am loyal to my country and devoted to the concepts
contained in the Bill of Rights. I believe I live my life in a way that upholds
American ideals. The United States Constitution in my bible. The Bill of Rights
is my Ten Commandments.
I am happy, however, that I did not live in Massachusetts Bay Colony during the
1600's. The province's theocratic, pre-constitutional colonial period did not
tolerate pagan religions. Political and religious dissenters were fiercely
punished in public. No freedom of expression in religious matters was permitted
and book burning was a common occurance. The scarlet letter, pillory, whipping
post, stocks, ducking stool, and branding and maiming were horrifying
punishments meted out daily to sinners during that era. Chapter 19 of The Acts
and Resolves Public And Private of the Province Of The Massachusetts Bay states
that Idolatry [Sect. 1], Witchcraft [Sect. 2], Blasphemy [Sect. 3], and Sodomy
[Sect. 8] were capital offenses punishable by death. Christian women and men
were burned as witches and Quaker women were beaten, imprisioned, banished or
hanged for writing about women's rights and equality.
I truly love my country. However, I am also glad I was not born into 18th
century America. In 1711, the Massachusetts Province passed "An Act Against
Intemperance, Immorality and Profaneness, And For Reformation Of Manners."
This province law made it illegal to compose, write, print or publish "any
filthy, obscene or profane song, pamphlet, libel or mock-sermon, in imitation or
[in] mimicking of preaching, or any other part of divine worship. Every person
or persons offending in any of the particulars aforementioned shall be punished
by a fine to her majesty ....by standing on the pillory once, or oftener, with
an inscription of his crime, in capital letters, affixed over his head..."
After the Revolutionary War, the future first lady Abigail Adams, concerned
about the status of women in the newly formed America, wrote to her husband,
John Adams : "In the new code of laws which I suppose it will be necessary
for you to make, I desire you would remember the ladies and be more generous and
favorable to them than your ancestors."
The fact is that, after the turn of the century, the United States did become
more aware of women's issues and more tolerant of women's rights. In the 1800's,
radical movements for free love, sexual freedom, spiritualism, suffrage, birth
control and voluntary motherhood ushered in the first wave of feminsim . The
pursuit of freedom of sexual expression was affirmed by such enlightened feminst
foremothers as Mary Wollstonecraft (d. 1797), Margaret Fuller (d. 1850) and
Elizabeth Cady Stanton (d. 1902). However, unlike those generations of women
coming before them who were persecuted for threatening the patriarchal order,
these women demanded respect for their cause and received popular support.
During the prudish Victorian era, the notorious New England Free Love League
held its first public convention in 1876 in Boston, MA. Free love granted women
the right to control their sexual activity outside of legal, church-state
approved, marriage. Free love meant no coercion in sexual relations, within
marriage or outside of marriage. Many free lovers went one step further, arguing
that free unions should replace legal marriage. The radical free love proponent,
Victoria Woodhull, created a sensation by proclaiming herself the first woman
candidate for president.
As a first amendment advocate, I support sexual freedom for consenting adults. I
believe that freethinking consenting adults not only have a right to choose what
they read, write, say, view and think about human sexuality but also have the
right to personal freedom of erotic and sexual expression in the privacy of
their own homes. True freedom cannot exist without privacy. The Fourth Amendment
to the Bill of Rights protects our right to personal privacy in our homes.
Spiritually, I self-identify as a Celtic-Germanic pagan. I am also an
individualist feminist. I believe that, for millenia, ignorance about matters
pertaining to human sexuality has perpetuated an irrational fear of sex. I
believe that human sexuality has been controlled by a biblically-based
patriarchal society that cultishly uses superstititon and indoctrination as
tools to brainwash vulnerable individuals, especially women, into feeling shame,
guilt and fear when they shouldn't.
Since the 1980's, increasing numbers of Americans have come to the conclusion
that the Bill of Rights is under attack by a United States government that is
rapidly becoming an enemy of freedom instead of a protector and defender of
liberty. How un-American that in 2000, the political-cultural agenda of the
theofascist Christian Right movement against sex education in the schools, gay
sexuality, contraception and abortion is still making it increasingly difficult
to access objective and accurate information about the fundamentals of human
sexuality and to receive legal medical advice and services. As a freedom-loving
American who supports the first amendment, I implore the U.S government to
officially disassociate itself from the politics of religious activists who are
orchestrating America's Culture War and Abortion Rights Civil War.
Equally menacing to the nation's freedom is the contemporary leftist emphasis on
class distinction, race and ethnicity, and gender and sexual difference. Like a
trojan horse, the Marxist agenda has infiltrated the nation in the form of
politically correct campus anti-hate speech codes, anti-sexual harassment
policies, date rape laws, multicultural historical revisionism and censorious
feminist anti-porn propaganda equating all heterosexual intercourse with rape.
Contrary to popular belief, communism is still alive and well inside the former
Soviet Union and with the empowerment of Red China, many Americans recognize
leftist -isms as an assault on anything Western, White, or American.
To remain free, many the United States government must also stop trading with
communist and theofascist countries. The government must also condemn
multinational corporations and global financial institutions that are more
concerned with the New World Order and their bottom line than with the
consequences of their business practices and workplace conditions on the rights
of their employees and the governments of individual nation-states.
The Founders never included a reference to corporations in the Bill of Rights
because the American Revolution was a rebellion against both the tyranny of
oppressive rulers and against corporate entities. The British East India
Company, a powerful monopoly, conducted business in the colonies for the
financial benefit of the English King. The Company's ruthless economic
repression led to the Boston Tea Party. In reality, early America was dominated
by family-owned farms and businesses and worker-owned ventures and cooperatives.
Imagine how the Founders would react to nineteenth and twentieth century
decisions by the United States Supreme Court extending the protection of the
Bill of Rights rights to corporations. For a branch of the U.S Government to
declare that a private corporation is a "natural person," a citizen,
entitled to protection is not rooted in the political thought and culture of
I believe that to be a responsible American citizen, one's civic disposition
must include not only an interest in history, politics, and current events but
also a practical, working knowledge of the contents of the Bill of Rights and a
real readiness for activism. Citizens must live their everyday lives cherishing
and upholding American ideals, principles and values. The greatest opportunity
for a man or woman to achieve his or her dream and for parents to raise a family
still exists in America. However, in today's world, Thomas Jefferson's "The
price of liberty is eternal vigilance" serves as a powerful reminder that
freedom isn't free. Americans must be watchful, speak out and take action
against activities that undermine the American way. The promise of freedom
contained in the Bill of Rights must not be taken for granted.
© Brenda Loew 2000
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