When I was in high school, one of my history teachers was covering the Revolutionary War, the birth of our Nation, and specifically the difficulty our founding fathers had in agreeing on the Constitution. He taught us about the delima surrounding the protection of our rights. James Madison introduced the Bill of Rights as a solution. Alexander Hamilton opposed the entire idea that such protections needed to be included saying “Why declare that things shall not be done which there is no power to do?” since the Constitution granted no ability to restrict rights.
In the end, the Bill of Rights was needed in order for the states to ratify the Constitution, and it is those rights that America has woven in its very fiber… so it was interesting when our teacher asked us to brake out into teams and were given this assignment:
If you had to give up half of the rights granted to you in the Bill of Rights, which half would you give up and which half would you keep?
We spent the entire class debating the rights, the importance of those rights, which ones were required in order to still consider ourselves free men and women. It was a wonderful way to teach us what is in the Bill of Rights, why they were included, and what they meant to our daily lives. In the end, each break out group had their lists and we came back together to share our lists and our reasons with the class.
Many of us had very similar lists, some had very different ones. Most of us believed free speech and the right to bare arms were among the most important rights protected by the Bill. We argued most of the others. Then with a single comment, our teacher taught us more than we had learned in the entire exercise:
Why would you be willing to give any of them up at all?
WOW… I realized a great deal with that single statement. I learned that we were far too willing to give up our rights because a person of authority simply asked us to. Our nation was birthed out of rebellion against anything or anyone that seeks to remove rights granted by our “Creator”. We embroidered the words on our hearts when we penned them in our 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. — That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed