The Declaration of Independence placed significant emphasis on the following words: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.” (Seven words burned into the minds of all Americans.)
These seven words are so profound and powerful, that they are seen as the foundation stone to the Constitution of the United States. These words however were only the guide lines that a Bill of Rights would later use the prophetic words: “in order to form a more perfect union”. And, as could be expected and predicted by The Framers of our government, apparent additions and clarifications became necessary.
But, these words, original or amended, were only set to describe what the government was to do. It was up to each citizen to take upon themselves a personal responsibility to ensure that their own rights to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness were not abridged, and that their entitlement to these truths did not infringe upon the same inalienable rights of another.
A precarious balance on the scales of justice! With the rights of one citizen on one side and the rights of another on the other side of the scale, the balance would be the same and equal. This is where the genius of our founding fathers once again becomes apparent. The Government with all the legislative powers to make laws, rules, and regulations sits in the middle of the scales as a “balance” to the two sides. With equal entitlement to the rights set forth in the Constitution, it is the personal responsibility of either side to “follow the rules”. When the laws and rules are not followed by one side or the other, the balance then should lean toward that of the citizen that did follow the rules. I would call this justice.
I recently heard a professor from Hillsdale College make an interesting comment. What he said, meant to me, that of those seven profound words in our Declaration of Independence; only three are personally left up to us: “pursuit of Happiness”. As individuals, happiness is the only thing that we personally have any control over. Happiness is a very personal thing that has as many different meanings as there are people. Life and death are ultimately decided by God. Liberty while given by God; is controlled and regulated by others and The Law for the benefit of all the people of this country.
So, when you next consider: “What makes me happy?” I ask you also to consider three things. Am I breaking any existing laws, rules, or regulations? Am I infringing upon the rights of others? And, will what I am contemplating really make me happy?
It is our personal responsibility not only to ourselves, but also to the common good, for each of us as Americans to follow the laws, rules and regulations that are legal, just, and legislatively agreed upon by our government. This I believe will ensure that our right to liberty endures. Take responsibility for your actions and be accountable for the results.