Every day, we hear folks talking about civil rights, but rarely do we hear anyone enter the arena of civil responsibilities. We are told that immigration is a civil rights issue, that requiring a voter ID is a civil rights issue, that gun control is a civil rights issue. What everyone fails to discuss is the fundamental truth that every right carries a corresponding responsibility. Just what are our civil responsibilities, and how do they correspond to our civil rights?
The Constitution guarantees the right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. It does not, however, absolve any person from the responsibility to provide these things for themselves. It simply promises that the Federal Government will not take them away. If one wishes to exercise their right to life, they must provide for themselves those things conducive to life, such as healthy food, water, and shelter. Each of us has the civil responsibility to be self-supporting through our own contributions lest we become a burden to society. In days not so long ago, this concept was taken for granted. Yet over the course of the last sixty years we seem to have come to believe that it is society’s responsibility to provide these things. We have allowed, and in many cases encouraged, our government to take away our financial responsibilities; to provide a measure of food and shelter. The problem is that as we exchange these obligations we pay the price in the loss of both self-esteem and personal liberty, for as the Government provides, so does it assume the authority to dictate where one must live and what one must eat. As the Government assumes responsibility for our health care, it also takes from us the freedom to choose how we shall live and for how long. It will tell us what medical procedures we can have and when, and we will let it because it is picking up the tab. And what of the burden we place on our neighbors and friends? The Government has no money of its own, it must confiscate it from the labor of others, including and especially our children and grandchildren. Have we no civil responsibility to our posterity? Shall we spend them all into slavery simply to avoid taking responsibility for ourselves? The answer from today’s leadership seems to be yes.
Civic Responsibility and Voter ID
One of the most vaunted civil rights we’ve heard about in recent months is the right to vote. No doubt it is one of our most important rights. Yet what no one speaks of is the responsibility to be informed about candidates, issues, and the functions of government when exercising this right. Apparently we don’t even want people to have to take the responsibility get a free picture ID to prove they are eligible to vote. If people are unwilling to make that small effort, how can they be expected to vote responsibly?
When Benjamin Franklin was leaving the Constitutional Convention in 1787, he was asked “Well, Doctor, what have we got-a Republic or a Monarchy?” His answer; “A Republic, if you can keep it.” In order to keep the Republic, we must exercise our civic responsibility to be informed, otherwise we forfeit all of our civil rights. Thomas Jefferson summed it up quite well, saying “If a nation expects to be ignorant and free, in a state of civilization, it expects what never was and never will be.”
According to a national survey conducted by Xavier University in 2012, one-third of the native US population could not score 60% on the civic literacy portion of the Immigration and Naturalization’s exam for citizenship. Fully half could not score 70%. If we fail to educate ourselves about the meaning of “The Rule of Law” and the separation of powers embodied in the Administrative, Legislative, and Judicial branches of government, how can we expect to elect competent leadership for those branches?
The founders of our nation understood that self-governance depended on a moral citizenry. If we could not trust each other, if we would not willingly submit to the rule of law, the social contract we call the US Constitution would have no hope of succeeding. No matter how deeply some would like to ignore it, the fact is that our country was founded on Judeo-Christian values. These values can be thought of as our most basic civil responsibilities. What are they?
God is sacred.
Don’t worship other stuff like, money, sex, power, etc. more than God.
Since God is sacred, show some respect.
Work hard for up to six days, but make sure you take one day off a week to reflect on what is truly important in life. (See number one)
Respect your elders, particularly those who brought you into this world.
Don’t kill, maim, or injure anyone, except possibly to defend yourself or someone else.
Don’t have sex with the spouse of anyone else. If you are married, don’t have sex with anyone other than your spouse.
Don’t take anyone else’s stuff.
Speak honestly, and kindly, ALWAYS.
Don’t be jealous of other people’s stuff. Work hard and smart and get your own stuff.
The current crop of leadership has a great deal of trouble with these basic responsibilities, particularly number nine. What do we teach our children when the majority of our national leaders will not even attempt to adhere to these universal values? Our rights are not so much being stripped from us, as being willingly given away.
Civil Rights are endowed by our creator, but in order for a people to remain free, and to retain these rights, it is absolutely imperative that we exercise their corresponding responsibilities! One cannot exist without the other.