Random Thoughts

Random Thoughts Volume 5: American Rights

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            A right is defined as a legal or moral entitlement that is just and honorable. The American citizen’s rights are the cornerstone of what makes this country so magnanimous. Per Thomas Jefferson, rights originate from a divine presence, in reference to any religion’s idea of a higher power. It is, however, the government who enforces and safeguards these rights for us. America is the Representative Republic where people have the power to elect officials; it is every citizen’s duty to pursue equality and justice for all, as well as, ensure that our government officials are reciprocating these actions. John Locke’s “Second Treatise of Government,” outlines the concept of just power. He states, “being all equal and independent, no one ought to harm another in his life, health, liberty, or possessions” (Locke, 2002). This theory describes that it is the social normality’s and what we consider as just actions that rule us, and not particularly the laws of our governments. Thomas Jefferson began the fight for our rights by stating in the “Declaration of Independence” that, “all men are created equal” (Jefferson, 1776). Before this moment, the King of Britain held too much power, and therefore our rights were nonexistent. The many similarities of rights between three very imperative and influential articles will be discussed; including the United States’ “Bill of Rights,” the French “Declarations of Human and Civic Rights,” and the United Nation’s “Universal Declaration of Human Rights.”
The Government of France on August 26, 1789, developed “The Declaration of Human and Civic Rights” to both provide and protect their citizen’s unalienable rights. In this article, there are many similarities to America’s “Declaration of Independence,” showing that all men and women are entitled to these basic rights, no matter what race or religion they are nor where they are located. Dr. Martin Luther King discusses social contracts in his article, “Letter from a Birmingham Jail.” He explains, using Thomas Jefferson’s writings, that everyone has the responsibility to act against an unjust government; elaborating that “one has a moral responsibility to disobey unjust laws” (King, 1963). One of the most significant quotes from France’s Declaration is, “men are born and remain free and equal in rights. Social distinctions may be based only on considerations of the common good” (Government of France, 1789). This is the first right mentioned in their Declaration, as well as America’s. These rights are the cornerstone of what it means to be a human. Numerous other rights are outlined in France’s Declaration such as the preservation of life, safety, liberty, and above all, the resistance to oppression. This right to rebel is further explained in Amendment II of the United States “Bill of Rights,” 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” (Madison, 1789). The manner in which laws can be enforced by their governments is provided as well, allowing France’s citizens the right to a just trial and to be presumed innocent until that individual is proven guilty. France’s Declaration also states that “society has the right to ask a public official for an accounting of his administration” (Government of France, 1789). These rights are necessary as the right of free speech and freedom of the press, as well as, the obligation to challenge a government who is unjust, can be quite treacherous for citizens to take part in.
Rights are enabled to prevent inequality and the abuse of a government’s powers. The United States, France, and the United Nations, all emphasize that freedom is vital in our daily lives. In the United States specifically, Congress is designed so that no law infringes on an establishment of religion or prohibits the freedom of speech or press. In France’s “Declarations of Human and Civic Rights” and the “United Nation’s Universal Declaration of Human Rights,” the free communication of ideas and opinions is one of the most precious rights of men. Any citizen may, therefore, speak, write and publish freely, within reason. They are also endowed with conscience and should act towards one another in the spirit of brotherhood, per the social contract that we all abide by. United States, France, and the United Nations all share a similarity in property rights. In the United States, no arbitrarily seized or spot checks of people’s property shall be performed unless with official and just confirmation and consent. In France, since the right to property is inviolable and sacred, no one may be deprived of their property, unless due to specific circumstances outlined in the article. The third right states that no one shall be charged, arrested or detained unless determined to be a just action and is by the prescribed procedure since every individual is considered innocent until proven guilty. Another commonality is that the United States, France, and the United Nations attach great importance to equality. Everyone must be treated equally and everyone is equal before the law, without any discrimination. “Freedom from Fear,” an article that was written by Aung San Suu Kyi, outlines how fear is used in economic and political areas. “Don’t just depend on the courage and intrepidity of others. Each and every one of you must make sacrifices to become a hero possessed of courage and intrepidity. Then only shall we all be able to enjoy true freedom” (Aung San, Bogyoke, 1991)? This statement shows us how the rights in these articles must be fought for and constantly protected by all citizens individually. Through these three similar statements in these articles, freedom, equality, and human rights are equally protected and enforced, and must continue to be performed.
The United State’s “Bill of Rights,” France’s “Declarations of Human and Civic Rights,” and the U.N.’s “Universal Declaration of Human Rights,” all share one set purpose. They were created in the best interest of their citizens, to ensure freedom and equality throughout a nation.  Comparing Amendment I from the United States’ “Bill of Rights” with others written in the French “Declarations of Human and Civic Rights,” Article number 10 of the French Declaration states that ”no one shall be disquieted on account of his opinions, including his religious views, provided their manifestation does not disturb the public order established by law” (Government of France, 1789). This simply means that the citizens of France have the freedom of speech as well as religion. The rights depicted in the First Amendment can also be compared with the rights in Article Number 11 of the same doctrine, “The free communication of ideas and opinions is one of the most precious of the rights of man. Every citizen may, accordingly, speak, write, and print with freedom, but shall be responsible for such abuses of this freedom as shall be defined by law” (Government of France, 1789). In Articles 18 through Article 21, the doctrine declares that everyone is entitled to freedom of thought, religion, opinion, speech, peaceful assembly, and just government action. These articles from both the French and United Nation’s Declaration are generally summarizing the concepts stated in First Amendment of the “Bill of Rights,” which states that, “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press…” (Madison, 1789). In other words, the people of France share many of the same freedoms and rights as we appreciate in America, and both share many similarities with the United Nation’s Declaration.
There are a few rights listed in the United Nation’s Declaration which are not included in both the French Declaration and the U.S. “Bill of Rights.” One right mentioned in the French Declaration is Article 4 which states that “no one shall be held in slavery or servitude; slavery and the slave trade shall be prohibited in all their forms” (Government of France, 1789). This right is affirming that slavery, in any form, is illegal. Article 4 of the United Nation’s Declaration expresses that, “no one shall be held in slavery or servitude; slavery and the slave trade shall be prohibited in all their forms” (United Nations, 1948). These articles share this common goal of freedom for all. Another human right that wasn’t written in the other two doctrines is Article 16.  This article of the “Universal Declaration of Human Rights,” states that any man or woman over the legal age has the right to marry. This gives a person the right to create a family without any limitation due to race, religion, or nationality. Article 13 is another right that was only included in this doctrine. It states, “Everyone has the right to freedom of movement and residence within the borders of each state. “Everyone has the right to leave any country, including his own, and return to his country” (Government of France, 1789). This article gives a citizen freedom to travel to and from their country and that their choice of residence is a legal option and right.
In closing, this comparison proved that the U.S. “Bill of Rights,” the French “Declarations of Human and Civic Rights,” and the “Universal Declaration of Human Rights,” hold many similarities, as well as differences. These three doctrines were great accomplishments that united people together to form strong world powers. Rights give individuals the freedom to live their lives in the manner that they wish, pursuing whatever brings them happiness. It is important to remember that although these rights hold many benefits for a country’s citizens, they are not free, as Thomas M. Franck states in his article, “Are Human Rights Universal,” “waiting for the inevitable globalization of personal freedoms is also made untenable by the reviving militance of cultural exceptionalism” (Franck, 2001). These rights we all enjoy had to be fought for, and this fight must be continued by us all. These rights give us the ability to fight against a corrupt or unjust government, with the right to bear arms, peaceful assembly, and freedom of speech. By using these tools, it is the duty of every citizen to defend their rights and freedoms, as well as others.
 
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Suu Kyi, Aung San. “Freedom from Fear.” 10 July 1991.
 
 

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