Understanding Rights And Freedoms

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Lets begin by taking a moment to look at where all of the rights and freedoms we all have come from. This is an important place to begin because it also helps to show why we have these rights and freedoms to begin with.

In most countries (North America especially) every right and freedom we have came about because of the sacrifice of other people. Some of those sacrifices were massive compared to others, and others were smaller, but they involved sacrifice nonetheless. In both the United States and Canada we have a "founding document" that defines and details the basic non-alterable rights and freedoms we receive for being part of that society. However, in both countries it is also true that those same "benefits" were not always extended to everyone. There have been situations when "certain" people(s) were not eligible to receive the same rights and freedoms as other were - even though there were supposed to be "guaranteed rights and freedoms".

As examples, lets look at two separate and more recent situations.

The first occurred after world war two and was a direct result of women being needed to produce the goods and services that the country needed to both sustain the population and the war effort. This was the first time in the United States where women were able to work in previously "men" dominated industry. Since the men were all off fighting in the war, the only people left to do the job was women. However, when the war ended everyone expected the women to return to their subservient ways - which did not go over very well.

This single event proved to women from all over the US that they were not equal in the eyes of either the law or men. Before there was simply no question or issue over working the way they had during the war. Now there was a number of questions being asked - that many people, especially those in power, did not want asked. This lead to the beginning of the Women's Right Movement and all that followed.

Eventually this movement came up against the issue of actually being "equal". They wanted the same rights and freedoms "guaranteed" by the Bill of Rights - which included the right to vote. At this time there arose the Suffragette Movement which was primarily about getting women the right to vote. However, the movement was also just as much about getting equal respect for women as it was to get the right to vote.

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Now the women that made up this movement were not seen in good light by most people - especially those in power. They were generally seen as a pest that should be ignored. Yet, as with all such things their numbers grew and they voice became bigger. Their voice got to the point that people were being forced to listen to what they had to say - which was not seen as acceptable. The people in power began to "fight back" as they saw it - they were fighting to maintain their way of life after all. This eventually lead to a number of women being sent to an asylum where they were deemed "unfit" to be in regular society. Remember, all of this was simply to get respect for women and allow them the right to vote.

While in the asylum some of the women decided to hold a hunger strike. They were still being talked about and there were those who did support them after all. Thus a hunger strike was the only tool that was left to them given their current circumstances. This eventually lead the asylum staff to force feed those women who would not eat. They were strapped down and a hose shoved down their throat so that "food" could be poured in. Eventually this information got out - for those in power had been claiming these women were being treated in a fair and respectful manner. This caused a swing in the way things were being looked at.

Shortly there after the women being held were released and a vote was help to determine whether or not women should be give the right to vote. This vote, because of the sacrifice of those women and the hardship and ridicule that they had endured passed. It didn't pass by very much - but almost surely would not have even come close to passing had it not been for the courage, dedication and fortitude of a group of women. A group of women who really only wanted to be "equal" in the eyes of the law - something guaranteed under the bill of rights.

The second occurred between the 19th century and 1970 (more than a hundred years) and involved people who were not seen as "people". This of course was the abuse of natives - but not the abuse over land that had happened earlier. This abuse occurred because the church and state wanted to "socialize the heathens" as they put it. They felt the natives were all savages that had no morals, dignity, or values and needed to be re-educated to become "people". During this period children were taken away from their parents and forced to live in "schools" run by the church.

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While in these schools the native children were required to "give up" everything that made them "native". They were not allowed to wear any sort of native dress, speak any language other than English or French (depending on where they were etc), eat any sort of native foods, or even use their native names. Every last child was "required" to take on a "proper name" as part of the re-education. Any infractions of these requirements for any reason at all was dealt with swiftly, and harshly. Entire generations of native children grew up facing abuse, punishment, intolerance, and hatred that most of us can scarcely begin to even imagine. Many were even required to deal with sexual abuse that left them "broken" until the day they dies.

Remember, this was all done at the sanction of both the church and the state. There was little or no choice about keeping your children at home with their family - there were "required" to go. The entire point was to take the native people and literally beat the native out of them. There was no land to acquire, no slaves to create, etc., there was no point but to ensure the total annihilation of the native way of life. It wasn't until around 1970 that this practice was abolished. Of course not before the damage was done.

To this day there are entire populations of native people who have no language, culture, or identity because it was literally beaten out of them. All of it done even though every "person" was guaranteed certain rights and freedoms. The only reason it was even allowed to happen in the first place was because natives were not people - they were "Natives". They were not deemed good enough to receive the same rights and freedoms that everyone else got to enjoy.

The point being made in both of these examples is that Rights and Freedoms are just words. The Bill of Rights and Charter of Rights and Freedoms (US and Canada) are merely pieces of paper with words written on them. They have no power in and of themselves. They are both only used in a court of law AFTER a violation has occurred - and even then only if the violation can be proven. What's worse is that countless people have risked their lives and died so that we can all enjoy these Rights and Freedoms that we take for granted so freely.

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So, who's to blame that all of the Rights and Freedoms others have lost their lives fighting for have become nothing more than words on a piece of paper? The answer is sadly - We are! All of us are to blame for this situation. All of us are responsible because of two different reasons: 1) Because we "allowed" our Elected Government Officials to ignore them whenever and however they choose to. We didn't (and still don't) make them honor these sacred words that are supposed to never be altered, lessened, or compromised for any reason. This of course is because we have also forgotten that they work for us. Government Officials answer to the people - not the other way around! They only reason they don't answer to us at the moment is again for the same reason - we allowed them to get away with it. As long as we live in fear of them and not them being afraid of us - they will do what they want to and will happily violate any rights they want to along the way - including those of every last person regardless of race, religion, age, or anything else for that matter!

2) The other reason we are responsible is because we also allow other people to walk all over our own individual rights as if they were irrelevant. We accept being treated like garbage at work, being treated with dis-respect by our Elected Officials, we accept being ripped off by anyone who decides to rip us off, and generally go out of our way to tell people that they can do whatever they want to us because we will not stand up and make sure our rights are enforced. Of course given the fact we ignore all Rights and Freedoms this isn't much of a surprise. Why would we expect other people to honor our rights when we don't even have any idea what they are or what they mean. Something that is entirely fixable if we just put in some time and effort to fix them.

Rights and Freedoms are only as big a joke as we as a society allow them to be. When we are willing to stand up for our own Rights and Freedoms we can again make them meaningful. We need to make it our personal mission to ensure that everyone's Rights and Freedoms are maintained - not just our own! When we are willing to stand up as those who came before us have, we have the power to change the way things are done. We have the power to actually make our Governments answerable to the people - as they are REQUIRED to be but don't do at the moment! We have the power to demand that all Rights and Freedoms be upheld and maintained at all times - not just when it's convenient to do so.

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It also requires us taking the time to learn what our rights actually are. To make sure we don't assume rights that don't actually exist or require others to honor false rights. Only when we fully know and understand our rights as both individuals and members of society as a whole can we begin to make them "real" again. Only then can we actually make sure that the reality of our Rights and Freedoms matches all those high-ideals, wonderful words, and great expectations we have in regard to them. In short, we actually can make them as real as they always should have been!

More importantly than all of that - we can do it all without any form of anarchy or violence. We don't need to "force" people to accept that we have rights and they need to uphold them. We just need to remind them, and the Government, we already have them and we will no longer tolerate them being ignored. It doesn't matter which country you come from, what religion, what sex, or even how old you are - Rights and Freedoms are supposed to be non-negotiable - so let's work to actually make them what they are already supposed to be!

Copyright February 2009 - All Rights Reserved


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