American Illusion

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By: Wayne Brown

 

(Writer’s Note: Hub writer, Harlan Colt, recently posed the question: “What is a right?” At first glance, I almost passed it by and did not offer my opinion then the more I thought about it, the more significant the question became.  Soon, I too, was offering my two cents on the question and I was also convinced that far too many people do not understand the complexity of the concept of “right” in the American society.  That said I would like to personally thank Mr. Colt for inspiring me to write this article.)

 

According to Merriam-Webster, a “right” refers to “being in accordance with what is just, good, and proper.  The definition goes on to add “conforming to the facts and truth”.  In the perspective from which this definition is offered, a “right” seems to be a good thing and it occurs on the good side of things, like truth and facts.  While I think these statements are certainly relevant to describing a “right”, I think they fall miserably short of giving a clear picture of what a “right” is or is not to those who claim to possess them.

 

Let’s start by putting the concept into perspective using a business example.  If I own a building and want to lease it out and you are in need of a building much like the one that I have, then we have the basis for a contract.  I want to lease my property and you desire to lease it from me.  If we simply shake hands on the deal and you start paying me rent, that would seem to some like a happy and simple arrangement.  While the “simple” part is true, the agreement in principle is woefully lacking in terms of guarding the “rights” of the two parties involved.  One could say that by striking such an arrangement that both parties just agreed to waive all rights that they might have other than the ownership granted by the deed.

 

This is why we have contracts.  Contracts are binding agreements between two parties which spell out the “rights” that each party possess under the terms of the particular contract.  In this example, the contract would be referred to as a “lease agreement” and both parties would sign it acknowledging their agreement and understanding of the terms of contract.  Should, at some point, a dispute arise regarding the leased property, then the lease contract becomes the basis on which the courts will rule with regard to the “rights” of each particular individual involved in the contract.  In this manner, each party, by virtue of the lease agreement, has some peace of mind that their “rights” are protected.

 

Now, let’s get to the sticky part that causes the confusion and leaves most people really not understanding the concept of “rights”.  Going back to our example above, each parties “rights” are a function of the binding agreement reached by virtue of the contract which they signed.  The rights are spelled out in terms of scope and limitations. There are also instructions under which a “cure” may be reached if “rights” are violated.  What we must understand here is that our “rights” are protected as long as we are in accordance with the provisions or requirements of the contract.  If I, as the tenant, elect to not pay my rent, eventually, under provisions spelled out in the agreement, I forfeit my “rights” under the contract to prevail as having legal access to the property.  At that point, the landlord is within his/her legal “rights” to lock me out and prevent access.  The key to understanding the concept of “rights” is very clearly exposed here…we must be in accordance in order to claim our rights.

 

Now, let’s take what we have learned from our business example and move into another arena of “rights” which comes from a different perspective.  Under those documents created by our Founding Fathers in the United States, we have a “Bill of Rights” which essentially spells out those rights which will be protected and afforded to each and every legal citizen of the United States of America.  The laws of our country will protect those rights in a court of law.  The function of the Bill of Rights is to clearly spell out what those particular “rights” are as defined by our Founding Fathers and as agreed upon by our governmental bodies in this country.

 

What many people fail to recognize here is that we have a “contract”.  In this case, we have a “contract of citizenship”.  Within that contract, I, as an applicant for citizenship, agree that I will be bound by the laws of the United States of America and that I will uphold and defend that which is the United States of America.  In general terms, that is what I am agreeing to by asking to be a citizen of the United States.  I am agreeing to be bound by those terms.  In turn, under the Bill of Rights and the Constitution, I am granted certain rights which I can exercise freely and those rights will be protected under the laws of the United States of America.

 

Just as we saw in the business example which I cited above, the “rights” which come with citizenship are also subject to some limitations.  There is a stipulation in my contract which I agreed to in becoming a citizen.  That stipulation is that I will comply with the requirements of citizenship.  If I come here from another land, I must complete the steps for citizenship and then I must take an oath swearing my allegiance to the United States of America.  If I am born here, then the contract automatically assumes that I am a citizen and that I am bound by the requirements of citizenship.  Thus, regardless of which example I use, if I do not fulfill the requirements of citizenship, I essentially forfeit my “rights” as such.

 

We have all seen the criminal apprehended in the movies or on television.  The law enforcement officers and others requiring information of this person are quick to read the person their “rights” as spelled out under the “Miranda Clause”.  That requirement states that I, as the criminal suspect, have the “right” to remain silent and that anything that I say or do can be used to prosecute me in a court of law.  It also says that I have the right to an attorney to advise me as to what I should or should not say in the course of the investigation of the crime.  Here again, we have an agreement in principle that stipulates that the suspect can remain silent and wait for his attorney and the law enforcement personnel will recognize that right and leave him/her alone.  Conversely, the terms also stipulate that the suspect may waive that right and freely discuss or answer any questions put forth by the law enforcement officials. In turn, this information can be used as evidence to convict the individual in a court of law.  Both parties must understand and execute this agreement in each scenario.  As you can clearly see, this agreement has stipulations, limitations, and requirements which hold both parties accountable if their “rights” are to be sustained.

 

In America today, we see too many scenarios in which individuals or groups are citing their “rights” to do particular things or have access to particular programs or processes under the guise of citizenship, yet they are not legal citizens of the United States of America.  In effect, they have not executed the contract for claiming their rights because they have not completed the necessary legal requirements to be citizens.  At the very least, they have no rights as citizens under the laws of this country. At the same time, by virtue of their presence here in this country, they are bound by the laws of the country which is a prerequisite for their temporary presence or visa. Are they deserving of humane treatment?  Yes, that goes without saying as it is a fundamental premise of our American fabric that we treat people humanely.  But, in a contractual sense, in the eyes of the law, and under the premise of our Founding Fathers and their guiding documents, these individuals have no rights relative to those granted with citizenship.  In order to obtain those rights, they must first meet the eligibility for citizenship and make the commitment that comes with it. They must agree to a binding contract to achieve their “rights” as Americans.  To do anything less violates that which the legal citizens of America have committed to and upheld.

 

We hear far too much talk about “rights” and far too little talk about “accountability”.  When we enter into an agreement, we become accountable for those actions spelled out within the context of the agreement.  When we mortgage a home, we take a gamble, a gamble that says that I am betting that the money I put into paying for this home will be returned to me in the form of an equity on my investment somewhere down the road when I decide to sell it.  That agreement which we sign commits us to the mortgage and the debt that goes with it.  It makes us accountable for it.  It does not in any shape or form guarantee us the “right” to earn equity or to be protected from loss per chance that the housing market falls apart and values decrease.  That is the part that we call the “gamble” and for that we are the ones who are accountable…not the bank, not the seller, not the realtor…us, the buyer.  When that value heads into red ink and our payment remains the same, we are still accountable for the debt. Many feel that at that point it is their “right” to up and walk away even though they can still afford the mortgage payment.  Things have not gone as expected; therefore it is my right to walk away.  What a shame that we think that we are so clear on our rights in this case and yet not cognizant of our accountability.

 

Much of what is wrong with America today as a society stems from what I have talked about here.  We have become a society that expects immediate gratification and to have a chicken in every pot we own when we want it.  We have become a society that expects government to shield us against our losses when we make poor choices.  We want the government to bail us out and give us another chance.  We want the debt to be forgotten because it would be too great a deed for us to live up to what was initially promised by us when we made the contract.  We were not fooled or lied to in the process.  We gambled and lost.  When that happens, you suck it up and you take your medicine. Instead, America has become a country overflowing with “quitters” who throw in the towel at the first sign of disappointment and scream for their rights while remaining totally silent with regard to their accountability.  What a shameful thing we have become when we had so many great examples of honesty and hard work preceding us in this country.  What a shame.

 

America will no doubt continue down this road that we are on because far too many people don’t even know where we are in this country.  Slowly but surely our ever-growing federal government will take more and more rights away in trade for that mental security that Americans so desire; that safety net that is always  there below to catch us. Then one day, we will wake up and the “rights” will be all gone.  Our protection will be only as good as that hand shake I mentioned early on in the business example I offered above.  There will no longer be any rights protected under the laws of America and the average citizen can and will be held accountable for whatever the government that was established to protect those rights deems necessary at the time.  Ignorance is bliss as the old saying goes and it was never more true than it is in America today.

 

 

© Copyright WBrown2011. All Rights Reserved.

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Comments 20 comments

Just Ask Susan profile image

Just Ask Susan 5 years ago from Ontario, Canada

Excellent article Wayne! Glad to see your hubscore has returned back up to where it should be!!!


Wayne Brown profile image

Wayne Brown 5 years ago from Texas Author

@Just Ask Susan...Thank you! A good rant is great for the digestive system! LOL! Thanks for the good words and the confidence, I surely appreciate it. WB


Motown2Chitown 5 years ago

Wayne, this is absolutely fabulous! I shared it on my Facebook (hope you don't mind), and of course voted it up. You said this so clearly, and minus the hostility that others usually have dripping from their tongues when they attempt to say something similar. Incredibly well done!


mckbirdbks profile image

mckbirdbks 5 years ago from Emerald Wells, Just off the crossroads,Texas

You would anticipate that America is the most blissful country on the planet. I appreciate the essence of this Hub. Our fathers and their fathers would shutter at our collective mindset.


WillStarr profile image

WillStarr 5 years ago from Phoenix, Arizona

We also have certain natural rights granted by our Creator and not dependent on man or government. That’s an important distinction because what rights man grants, man can also take away.

The Founding Fathers were very careful not to ’grant’ rights in the Constitution. A careful reading reveals that each right mentioned in the Bill of Rights is assumed to preexist the Constitution. Natural rights all come from God and as we have seen so many times, cannot be long denied by man.

Great Hub Wayne.


breakfastpop profile image

breakfastpop 5 years ago

This is a brilliant cohesive piece of writing that should be required reading for everyone. It is bad enough that individuals want to throw up their hands and shirk their responsibilities, but when that behavior is fostered by the government it is dangerous and reprehensible. Every time I hear those commercials about debt and the promise that the advertising company can get it reduced to less than half or more I rage inside. I feel the same way about companies that promise to get the IRS off the backs of people who haven't paid their taxes. And that brings us to the "rights" of people who are in our country illegally. Again the government is encouraging breaking the law and granting people who don'r deserve it the rights of American citizens. We have really lost our way. Wayne, this is useful and awesome and brilliant. Voted up.


Wayne Brown profile image

Wayne Brown 5 years ago from Texas Author

@Motown2Chitown...Thank you! I really would like to see an air of "accountability" in the country. I think we would all be better for it. WB

@mckbirdbks...I think you are correct in that assessment. Somewhere along the line the mindset moved from being grateful and thankful to live in this country to one of entitlement and selfishness. We are rapidly losing the magic dust that made us a great nation. WB

@WillStarr...You are right on with those points, Will. The Bill of Rights simply reminds everyone that those rights are indeed granted by the Creator and the binding aspect of the contract is that acknowledgement in the Bill of Rights forbids any man from attempting to remove those rights...that's our binding contract with God. At the same time, I shudder to think that no one bothered to ask Obama for a birth certificate when he decided to run for office...and no one complained until after the damage was done. WB


Wayne Brown profile image

Wayne Brown 5 years ago from Texas Author

@breakfastpop...Thanks much, Poppy...your words mimmick much of what I was thinking when I began to write the piece. Americans have a very poor concept of "contract law." WB


dahoglund profile image

dahoglund 5 years ago from Wisconsin Rapids

The business analogy was a good illustration. I do find it annoying that it is a reflex for people to claim their "rights."


Wayne Brown profile image

Wayne Brown 5 years ago from Texas Author

@dahoglund...I thought that analogy would sell the point. I guess that's why everybody in prison is "innocent" huh? Thanks DA...WB


The Frog Prince profile image

The Frog Prince 5 years ago from Arlington, TX

All one needs to do, if wondering what their "rights" are, is to whip our the pocket version of the US Constitution and take a leisurely read. They are all right there for the picking.

Good read and my sentiments exactly.

The Frog


Becky Puetz profile image

Becky Puetz 5 years ago from Oklahoma

Well said.


drbj profile image

drbj 5 years ago from south Florida

Wayne - This is a remarkably well-written and comprehensive treatment of rights in the U.S. and every citizen and would-be citizen should be required to read every word.

That includes our present leader (?) ship.


James A Watkins profile image

James A Watkins 5 years ago from Chicago

WB, this is yet another terrific article by you. You nailed it and I couldn't agree with you more. Thank you for your continued excellence.

JAW


Wayne Brown profile image

Wayne Brown 5 years ago from Texas Author

@Becky Puetz...Thanks do much...glad you liked it! WB

@drbj...Well, thank you so much, Doc! I was it was required myself...we might have a better country as a result! Thanks for the good words! WB

@James A Watkins...Thank you for those kind words. It is much appreciated coming from a guy who has written some mighty fine work that is much admired. Nothing wrong with us having rights but we need to understand the whole concept before we start demanding things! WB


Harlan Colt profile image

Harlan Colt 5 years ago from the Rocky Mountains

Wayne,

Thank you, (I think...) for citing me as the inspiration to this well written and nationally needed article.

If the government kicks in my door over it later, I may not be as thankful ha ha.

You have done and excellent job here. The intent of the question is to get people to think this through.

How can anyone effectively fight for or defend their rights to anything, if they cannot even define what a right is?

DUH...

I have to to take my hat off to you, please ignore that I need a hair cut.

Naturally I had my own angle on this. One that I have tweaked on for many years. You, however, have added a whole new dimension to the files that I have been taking for granted in terms of a societal-responsibility.

I have always approached the contract from the angle that

the citizen was the boss here, and the government official

was the servant; they are your employee and you are their employer.

I have and do maintain any public servant violating the public trust should be immediately removed from office; especially if they violate a citizen's rights.

In today's world, I feel more like I am their servant and they think they are in charge.

The Janitor's (government employees) are overthrowing the store manager (citizen) and everyone is acting like the janitor is the one really in charge here.

No he is not. WE ARE!

When I was in college, I was very active in politics,

studying the Constitution, the Federalist Papers,

even Federal code, I worked as a Speech Writer for a local

Congressman, etc., my point is I was actively formulating

how to convey to people the importance and depth of

what is a right.

I first got the idea while sitting in class listening to

a student explain how she had a right to this and a right to that - blah blah. And I thought to myself you don't have a "right" to any of that. You may deserve it,

based on moral and ethical values, but you do not have a "right" to those things.

SO I asked her straight out, "You say you have a right to this and to that. But before we talk about what our rights are, can you define a right? What is a right?"

In other words, you say you know something, but I am asking you HOW DO YOU KNOW? And beyond being raised with the assumption... most people have no idea.

Before they answer, I muddy the water for them - to make

them think a little more about their answer.

I'll ask:

Is a right a law? Or is it something protected by a law?

How do you know you have a right to anything, if you cannot properly and accurately define it?

Then I sit back and listen. Sometimes you get

pathetic ramblings and sometimes you get surprisingly awesome

answers. Sometimes, you can literally see gears and

springs exploding from their smoking minds as they try to fill in the pieces of this puzzle.

My definition of a right is thus:

A right is an agreement (contract) between two or more people for specific benefits or performance.

In terms of our Constitution, it is a contract between We the People who created our government, and the government we created to serve us to our collective advantage. In our contract we stipulated in the Bill of Rights, these are the things as our servants - you may not do to us.

Unfortunately, these are broken daily all across America on all levels of government without any repricussion.

What impresses me with this article, is you flipped it 180 degrees and gave a perspective from the opposite direction.

For example, I have always looked at this scenario from East to West, and you have shown me the view from West to East, at least that is how I felt reading this work. And I intend that as a compliment as it has alerted me to a vista I had not considered to even look at before. I will be thinking about this for awhile. For that I am greatful.

P.S. I really liked Will Starr's answer too. I think it is equally part of the equation.

Sorry for the long reply... sometimes I do that.

- best always

- Harlan


Wayne Brown profile image

Wayne Brown 5 years ago from Texas Author

@Harlan Colt...Of all the things I have written in this genre, there are few if any closer to my heart than this issue. My parents taught me to stand up and be a man. They taught me right from wrong and when I was wrong, I swallowed the medicine. I guess we don't teach that anymore. My dander gets up mighty fast when I hear folks talking that we need to "reform" our citizenship laws and bring them into the modern age. The translation for that is that we forget all that is required on the other side of the contract and let the folks in. Folks with no allegiance to anything and no accountability...can't even spell it. Then, they want to demand what is rightfully theirs under the auspices of citizenship when they have done nothing to earn that status. That is bad enought to chew on but to have politicians suggest that is the best course of action for America is just down right disgusting and it makes me mad dog mad everytime I think about it. There is only one thing our politicians need to do down south and that is "close that damn door!". Thanks, Harlan, glad to give you a new perspective. WB


Harlan Colt profile image

Harlan Colt 5 years ago from the Rocky Mountains

Don't get me wrong here, I have never supported illegal immigration, nor have I never ignored it. What I mean to say - when I say you gave me another perspective is - I have always looked at rights, as a citizen who is superior in authority to a public servant, and I have never given pause to consider it from the position of civic responsibility, ie., my role as a citizen for the better of the nation - and that my friend defines the other side of the coin, that I never thought to flip and examine the other side... for that, I am grateful.

- Harlan


Wayne Brown profile image

Wayne Brown 5 years ago from Texas Author

@Harlan Colt...I very much get what you are saying, Harlan and I agree with it. I guess I see it as a contract and both parties have to uphold their part of the contract if it is to remain a viable document. I think the danger that some don't see is giving citizenship without accountability. If my government, which is my servant, is not to endanger my rights, then I in turn, should be willing to protect and defend my homeland and my government from harm. There are far too many out there who look upon citizenship as simply a coutry club membership that allows you to get a cheap drink at the bar whenever you want it...they miss half the equation and do not see the accountability. That's what we need to get across in our young people and that is the fire in the belly that should be and must be burning in someone who comes here desiring citzenship. We don't need a loyal Citizen of Mexico living here with all the priviledges of American citizenship and no loyalty or accountability to America. Unfortunately Obama and many like him are more than willing to create that situation simply to gain the voting block. That is a spit in the face of every citizen in America and it needs to stop. WB


Harlan Colt profile image

Harlan Colt 5 years ago from the Rocky Mountains

I guess being a natural born American allowed me to never consider that angle. Your points here are very well said and well taken.

- best wishes

- Harlan

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