Inalienable Rights (Doctrines of an American)

We hold these truths to be self-evident,

The writers of the Declaration of Independence agreed on a few truths or beliefs which they didn’t feel need to be explained. They felt they obvious. There was no need to debate them or question them, they just were.

that all men are created equal,

ALL MEN, not some, not certain ones, but all men. Men doesn’t mean male, it means mankind. This didn’t mean everyone had everything in common. Think of it like this, in a place of work, although every employee is created equal, not all have equal responsibilities, compensation, nor work loads. Being created equal doesn’t do away with some being richer or poorer than others. It just means human life is valuable, regardless of station. A newborn baby’s life is just as valuable as a 90 year old’s life.

that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights,

Endowed isn’t a common term used now days. It means given, provided, or furnished. What was given was unalienable rights. Interestingly, it is said that the original word was inalienable and the word was incorrectly copied in the final draft to Congress. An inalienable/unalienable right is something we can’t give up, even if we wanted to.

Not only was there no need to debate that each human had rights they couldn’t give up, but it also wasn’t up for debate on where they got those rights. These rights were given by their Creator.

that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.

Here we see a few rights the writers felt were important enough to list out.

Life – Every human being has a right to life. Age, wealth, health, status, place of birth, color, ethnicity, didn’t matter, if you are a human, you have the right, which can not be given up, to be born. This life was given by their Creator.

Liberty – Jefferson is said to have written:

“… rightful liberty is unobstructed action according to our will within limits drawn around us by the equal rights of others.”

So although Liberty is said to be a right we can not give up, it is limited by the equal rights of others. The modern definition of liberty is:

the state of being free within society from oppressive restrictions imposed by authority on one’s way of life, behavior, or political views.

The problem with today’s definition is, well, it’s completely impossible. The problem we face today is the very definition of liberty. Today, people’s view of what “oppressive restrictions” means creates a large loop hole for one to impose on another’s very right to liberty. Just because I have the liberty to scream “FIRE!” at the top of my lungs, doesn’t mean I have the liberty to create fear and a dangerous situation just to get a laugh. Yet a person might use our modern day definition of liberty to argue their case and say that not being allowed to yell fire violates their first amendment right and is an oppressive restriction.

If we keep with Jefferson’s idea of liberty – we wouldn’t have this problem because it would be understood that by exercising the right to yell FIRE would be limited by the equal right of other’s around me.

Pursuit of Happiness – first thing we notice is it says the “pursuit” of happiness – which is significantly different than the right to happiness. I’m sure we can each come up with a time when we thought something would make us happy, only to find out it did not. In fact, many time it may be one of the least favorite times of our life. It’s about the journey here, not the destination. To each their own, what makes one happy may not make another happy.

Again this happiness would not come at the cost of others. It might cross your mind that stepping on someone’s toes might make you happy, but because it would hurt someone else, you wouldn’t have the right to do such a thing.

There is no debating that each American citizen has been created equal and given certain rights by our Creator, which we can not give up, including the right to be born,  to do as we want without obstruction, and pursue happiness within the limits of the equal rights of those around us.

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