Our Most Powerful Right

…we are oblivious to what the government is doing in terms of promoting corporate rights over individual rights. We ignore government policies that do little to curb deterioration of the environment. We ignore the federal government’s lack of response in answer to unemployment, poor health care, and inflation.

by David T. Bruce

usa-1327105_1280The Second Amendment to the United States Constitution will soon be the subject of debate again in the U.S. Supreme Court.  The amendment stating that “a well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.”  Following the decision that prevented Washington D.C. from legislating gun control within that district, the Supreme Court endeavors to determine if individual states can legislate gun control.

The issue of gun control is regularly and hotly contested.  Proponents vehemently uphold the Second Amendment, and opponents catalogue lives lost as a result of a person who lawfully owned a handgun and used that handgun unlawfully.  I argue that we do indeed have a right to own a gun, but we do not have a right to take a life as we see fit or endanger our neighbors and communities.  How do we balance this right with reality, though?

Essentially, Second-Amendment advocates demand that they have the right to own a gun because our forefathers said so.  Yes, the forefathers did state in the amendment that “the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.”  However, the amendment also reads that it was and is necessary to have “a well regulated Militia.”  What well regulated indicates is that in all likelihood, the militia should have leadership.  The intent was not for everyone to have a weapon and shoot as they please.  In the twenty-first century, this is precisely what we have.

As well, the intent was to prevent the government from impeding on the individual rights of a citizen by entering the home without just cause and to prevent a foreign militia from detaining United States citizens.  While we can argue that the likelihood of the latter is possible, we can also argue that the lack of the aforementioned well regulated militia would prevent any one person from being reasonably successful at deterring such an attack.  In respect to the likelihood of a government official entering a home without just cause, that too is remote.

Of all the challenges we currently face in the United States, I am often amazed at what comes to the forefront for debate.  We seem to put a great deal of emphasis on these “rights” that were handed down to us over two-hundred years ago, yet we ignore what our local, state, and federal officials are doing to our rights one day at a time.  We seem so worried about what the federal government is doing to trample on our Constitutional rights, but we are oblivious to what the government is doing in terms of promoting corporate rights over individual rights.  We ignore government policies that do little to curb deterioration of the environment.  We ignore the federal government’s lack of response in answer to unemployment, poor health care, and inflation.

The most powerful right we have as citizens of the United States is the right to vote, and maybe . . . maybe . . . one-half of our population exercises that right at any given time.  The rest of us don’t even pick up that weapon, let alone pull the trigger.  We can minimize or eliminate blatantly corrupt officials from the government by paying attention to what these officials are doing, paying attention to how they are voting on pertinent issues, and voting them out of office when their term is due.  In extreme cases, we have the right to remove corrupt officials from office before their term is over.  Yet we dismiss this right every single day. Our voice is as strong as any weapon, if we collectively choose to use our right to vote.

Religion Does Not Equal Morality

I am troubled by that kind of willingness to pass judgment based solely on religious differences.

by Shadra Bruce

love-1221444_1280Our daughter is a college student and a part-time employee at a fast food restaurant. While at work the other day, she and a co-worker somehow got on the subject of religion. My daughter is an atheist. She does not believe in any god; she does not go to church. When one of her co-workers heard this, he confronted her and told her that her choice was wrong, that one had to be religious in order to be moral.

We have raised our children to have open minds and to be tolerant of others no matter what kind of belief system they have. We have taught them that they need to make good choices, be honest, and treat others kindly—not because their god demands it, but because that is what human beings do. While we have not raised them with a specific religion, we have encouraged them to explore all religions and to choose a path that is most meaningful to them, and we support whatever path they choose to follow as long as they are truthful to themselves and others and treat people with decency.

Kira may not always consider herself an atheist. She is only 19. She has a lot of life experience yet to gain. Luckily, her co-worker is also young. Hopefully he will learn that people are more than their faith.

The hypocrisy of this situation is that the message of Jesus was one of tolerance. My daughter is not immoral. She does not treat people badly or judge them for having a different set of beliefs than her own. She treats people with kindness, making friends easily and helping others in times of need.

I am troubled by that kind of willingness to pass judgment based solely on religious differences.  I believe that this willingness to judge those who are different from ourselves is what has brought us to the point of warring against each other instead of treating each other like global neighbors. Regardless of individual belief, we are all one society of human beings, sharing one small planet.

President Obama Wants All of Us to Learn

I am equally concerned that a growing number of citizens are being spoon-fed their opinions from the likes of Limbaugh, Hannity, and Beck.

by David T. Bruce

obama-2009America has been divided for some time in terms of political agendas and in respect to opinions governing in what direction our country should grow, with Republicans and Democrats (and their constituents) often reaching an impasse, accomplishing nothing.  Yet the recent clash over President Obama’s scheduled address to school children is infantile at best, showing a lack of concern about issues that truly affect the nation as a whole.

I honestly doubt that the speech is an attempt to inject the federal government too far into public school business.  No Child Left Behind was such an attempt (and on many levels, a failed attempt), and other than school faculty and administration, I do not hear or read of the general public being outraged about that dandy piece of legislation.  In all likelihood, the opponents of the President’s address would say nothing, if the Commander-in-Chief were Republican, and vice-versa.

One woman interviewed by CNN stated that she is very scared to be in this country with the current leadership.  Was the administration of the past two terms satisfactory?  If so, then I am concerned about the population of this country who follow blindly, and I am equally concerned that a growing number of citizens are being spoon-fed their opinions from the likes of Limbaugh, Hannity, and Beck.  The President is not forcing anyone to watch his address at school, any more than citizens are forced to watch an address at home.

Are students compelled to watch; are they a captive audience?  Perhaps. Still, the Obama administration is making the speech available prior to the address for families to preview in advance. Doing so gives families the opportunity to discuss the speech and decide how the message relates to their values and beliefs. Damage control, for lack of a better term, may be initiated before the address. Making the speech available prior to the address also is a show of good intention by the administration, a gesture that seems intended to alleviate concerns that some socialist plot to brainwash our children is not happening without our knowledge.

Can we take the President at face value? I think we should try. Can we, for a moment, put our politics and biases aside, and imagine that a father of two daughters with the ability to positively affect the lives of all children might avail himself the opportunity? To those who would choose to raise hell over this one moment in time, please get a grip and get over yourselves. With the unemployment rate just shy of 10% and an economy knee-deep in recession, with a poverty rate at about 12% (according to 2007 statistics), and with over 15% of our population without health insurance coverage, our country is challenged with issues that affect us all far more than words of inspiration from of a man trying to put a positive spin on the future for our children.