Unalienable rights for a sovereign 21st century America

Declaration of Independence
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Unalienable rights for a sovereign 21st century America

As an orig­i­nal­ist at heart, I’m always skep­ti­cal of any form of “mod­ern­iza­tion” that any­one attempts to insti­tute on gov­ern­ment func­tions, ideas, or philoso­phies. That’s not to say that I want the world to work strictly from rules made in the 18th cen­tury, but human nature in gen­eral and pro­gres­sive nature in par­tic­u­lar tend to cor­rupt through mod­ern­iza­tion rather than improve.

One excep­tion that should be dis­cussed would be the mod­ern­iza­tion of the unalien­able rights set forth in the Dec­la­ra­tion of Inde­pen­dence. Unlike the Con­sti­tu­tion or the Amend­ments that should only be tam­pered with through the pre­scribed amend­ment pow­ers given to the fed­eral gov­ern­ment as well as the states, the Dec­la­ra­tion of Inde­pen­dence should be exam­ined for the sake of its 21st cen­tury valid­ity. We are no longer under the rule of Eng­land. We have a nation that is sov­er­eign, a gov­ern­ment sys­tem that is tested, and a peo­ple that are empow­ered. By exam­in­ing the unalien­able rights as they apply today, it’s pos­si­ble to bring them back into a focus in a way that is more applic­a­ble today.

This isn’t an exer­cise in hypo­thet­i­cals. I believe that we are at a point in Amer­i­can his­tory when the Dec­la­ra­tion of Inde­pen­dence needs to be remem­bered and applied. No, I don’t mean that it’s time to over­throw the gov­ern­ment or kick Cal­i­for­nia out of the Union once and for all. Because we are a peo­ple who are not oppressed by out­side gov­ern­ments, the need for inde­pen­dence is not applic­a­ble. How­ever, the unalien­able rights men­tioned in the doc­u­ment apply today per­haps more so than they applied back then.

Life, lib­erty, and the pur­suit of hap­pi­ness are listed as unalien­able rights called out specif­i­cally from the group. They are endowed by our Cre­ator and apply today. Unfor­tu­nately, they don’t have the same mean­ing to modern-​day Amer­i­cans, which is why I believe we need to do a quick exam­i­na­tion of how they should apply going for­ward given the situation.

Life

The first is the one that hasn’t changed in name but has changed in focus. Life is sacred. It is God-​given and must be pro­tected. It is a right and it should be unalien­able. Today, lib­er­als are try­ing to rede­fine life on mul­ti­ple lev­els. The most obvi­ous is, of course, pre-​birth life. Abor­tion was not the evil scourge sweep­ing the nation in the 18th cen­tury. TO them, life was a right that could be taken away by other men, but they did not need to specif­i­cally call out when life began and when the tak­ing of that life should be con­sid­ered murder.

Today, we have that issue.

Rather than redefin­ing, it’s impor­tant to main­tain the same name as, in its purest form, it exem­pli­fies the unalien­able right per­fectly. Should babies before birth be mur­dered as if they weren’t alive? Should ter­mi­nally ill patients be assisted in their efforts to take their own life? Is the death penalty right­eous, or per­haps a bet­ter way to ask the ques­tion is whether or not our jus­tice sys­tem can declare when some­one has com­mit­ted enough harm on oth­ers to for­feit their right to con­tinue to live?

Per­son­ally, I am as pro-​life as one can be in regards to abor­tion and assisted sui­cide and I’m for the death penalty, not as a deter­rent to crime but as an aid in heal­ing the loved ones of vic­tims. As Amer­i­cans, the ques­tion of life is some­thing that should be answered on a per­sonal level by every indi­vid­ual. It amazed me that peo­ple can have no opin­ion on any of these issues. After all, we’re talk­ing about the most pre­cious gift given to man in this world.

Lib­erty

There is a chal­lenge. Just as many have said that “con­ser­vatism” has been improp­erly co-​opted and rede­fined to fit a par­tic­u­lar par­a­digm, so to has the word “lib­erty.” Because we no longer fight for lib­erty from for­eign, but rather from our own gov­ern­ment, we have wit­nessed the orig­i­nal intent of lib­erty get­ting man­gled in recent decades.

It was telling when the Lib­er­tar­ian nom­i­nee for Pres­i­dent viewed lib­erty as strangely attached to feel­ings. From his per­spec­tive, if some­one walked into a bak­ery owned by a devout Jew and asked them to bake a cake shaped like a swastika, the mod­ern­ized def­i­n­i­tion of lib­erty states that the Jew­ish baker can­not infringe on someone’s right to have the cake they want baked. This is, in my hum­ble opin­ion, a per­ver­sion of lib­erty. Just as a Chris­t­ian bak­ery should not be forced to make a gay wed­ding cake, we can­not allow lib­erty to be used as an excuse to take away someone’s liberty.

All of this leads to our first shift in names. Rather than lib­erty, which only seems to main­tain purity when we’re fight­ing against oppres­sive out­side forces, we should instead embrace its close cousin, “free­dom.” This aligns bet­ter with the Con­sti­tu­tion; free­dom of reli­gion, free­dom of speech, free­dom of assem­bly — yes, they’re lib­er­ties, but when we see them more appro­pri­ately as free­doms, we have a more defen­si­ble unalien­able right. Anti­semitism might be viewed as lib­erty to some, but that lib­erty can­not be allowed to super­sede the free­dom of a pri­vate busi­ness owner who does not want to par­tic­i­pate in the cel­e­bra­tion or pro­mo­tion of an orga­ni­za­tion that killed millions.

Pur­suit of Happiness

Like lib­erty, the left has taken the orig­i­nal con­cept of our pur­suit of hap­pi­ness and mud­died the waters with social jus­tice and polit­i­cal cor­rect­ness. Today, if a stu­dent feels trig­gered because their hap­pi­ness is impeded by some­one else’s actions, even if those actions had nei­ther the intent nor the real­is­tic expec­ta­tion of caus­ing harm, they are allowed to feel like their rights are being attacked. It’s ridiculous.

Hap­pi­ness is not a right! It never has been. The abil­ity to pur­sue hap­pi­ness is the unalien­able right, per­fectly worded in the 18th cen­tury and per­fectly per­verted today.

To me, the clear­est way to enable the pur­suit of hap­pi­ness is through reduc­tion of gov­ern­ment inter­fer­ence. On the sur­face, one might won­der how smaller gov­ern­ment can be asso­ci­ated with the pur­suit of hap­pi­ness. If you take a moment to truly con­sider it, you’ll see that it’s through gov­ern­ment inter­ac­tion that the pur­suit of hap­pi­ness is most hin­dered. In short, more gov­ern­ment drains hap­pi­ness while less gov­ern­ment enables it.

If we look at America’s needs through a 21st cen­tury lens, we will see that we are endowed by our Cre­ator with cer­tain unalien­able rights, that among these are life, free­dom and an appro­pri­ately small degree of gov­ern­ment. If those things become our focus as a con­ser­v­a­tive move­ment, we’ll have our best chance of sur­viv­ing the left­ward lurch that the gov­ern­ment has been expe­ri­enc­ing in recent years.

As an originalist at heart, I’m always skeptical of any form of “modernization” that anyone attempts to institute on government functions, ideas, or philosophies. That’s not to say that I want the world to work strictly from rules made in the 18th century, but human nature in general and progressive nature in particular tend to corrupt through modernization rather than improve.

One exception that should be discussed would be the modernization of the unalienable rights set forth in the Declaration of Independence. Unlike the Constitution or the Amendments that should only be tampered with through the prescribed amendment powers given to the federal government as well as the states, the Declaration of Independence should be examined for the sake of its 21st century validity. We are no longer under the rule of England. We have a nation that is sovereign, a government system that is tested, and a people that are empowered. By examining the unalienable rights as they apply today, it’s possible to bring them back into a focus in a way that is more applicable today.

This isn’t an exercise in hypotheticals. I believe that we are at a point in American history when the Declaration of Independence needs to be remembered and applied. No, I don’t mean that it’s time to overthrow the government or kick California out of the Union once and for all. Because we are a people who are not oppressed by outside governments, the need for independence is not applicable. However, the unalienable rights mentioned in the document apply today perhaps more so than they applied back then.

Life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness are listed as unalienable rights called out specifically from the group. They are endowed by our Creator and apply today. Unfortunately, they don’t have the same meaning to modern-day Americans, which is why I believe we need to do a quick examination of how they should apply going forward given the situation.

Life

The first is the one that hasn’t changed in name but has changed in focus. Life is sacred. It is God-given and must be protected. It is a right and it should be unalienable. Today, liberals are trying to redefine life on multiple levels. The most obvious is, of course, pre-birth life. Abortion was not the evil scourge sweeping the nation in the 18th century. TO them, life was a right that could be taken away by other men, but they did not need to specifically call out when life began and when the taking of that life should be considered murder.

Today, we have that issue.

Rather than redefining, it’s important to maintain the same name as, in its purest form, it exemplifies the unalienable right perfectly. Should babies before birth be murdered as if they weren’t alive? Should terminally ill patients be assisted in their efforts to take their own life? Is the death penalty righteous, or perhaps a better way to ask the question is whether or not our justice system can declare when someone has committed enough harm on others to forfeit their right to continue to live?

Personally, I am as pro-life as one can be in regards to abortion and assisted suicide and I’m for the death penalty, not as a deterrent to crime but as an aid in healing the loved ones of victims. As Americans, the question of life is something that should be answered on a personal level by every individual. It amazed me that people can have no opinion on any of these issues. After all, we’re talking about the most precious gift given to man in this world.

Liberty

There is a challenge. Just as many have said that “conservatism” has been improperly co-opted and redefined to fit a particular paradigm, so to has the word “liberty.” Because we no longer fight for liberty from foreign, but rather from our own government, we have witnessed the original intent of liberty getting mangled in recent decades.

It was telling when the Libertarian nominee for President viewed liberty as strangely attached to feelings. From his perspective, if someone walked into a bakery owned by a devout Jew and asked them to bake a cake shaped like a swastika, the modernized definition of liberty states that the Jewish baker cannot infringe on someone’s right to have the cake they want baked. This is, in my humble opinion, a perversion of liberty. Just as a Christian bakery should not be forced to make a gay wedding cake, we cannot allow liberty to be used as an excuse to take away someone’s liberty.

All of this leads to our first shift in names. Rather than liberty, which only seems to maintain purity when we’re fighting against oppressive outside forces, we should instead embrace its close cousin, “freedom.” This aligns better with the Constitution; freedom of religion, freedom of speech, freedom of assembly – yes, they’re liberties, but when we see them more appropriately as freedoms, we have a more defensible unalienable right. Antisemitism might be viewed as liberty to some, but that liberty cannot be allowed to supersede the freedom of a private business owner who does not want to participate in the celebration or promotion of an organization that killed millions.

Pursuit of Happiness

Like liberty, the left has taken the original concept of our pursuit of happiness and muddied the waters with social justice and political correctness. Today, if a student feels triggered because their happiness is impeded by someone else’s actions, even if those actions had neither the intent nor the realistic expectation of causing harm, they are allowed to feel like their rights are being attacked. It’s ridiculous.

Happiness is not a right! It never has been. The ability to pursue happiness is the unalienable right, perfectly worded in the 18th century and perfectly perverted today.

To me, the clearest way to enable the pursuit of happiness is through reduction of government interference. On the surface, one might wonder how smaller government can be associated with the pursuit of happiness. If you take a moment to truly consider it, you’ll see that it’s through government interaction that the pursuit of happiness is most hindered. In short, more government drains happiness while less government enables it.

If we look at America’s needs through a 21st century lens, we will see that we are endowed by our Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, freedom and an appropriately small degree of government. If those things become our focus as a conservative movement, we’ll have our best chance of surviving the leftward lurch that the government has been experiencing in recent years.