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What the BILL OF RIGHTS means to me in today's world

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 freedom.

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 America's Founders.

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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