The Burdens and Gifts of Fatigue

This week has provided Americans with a primer on civics. A confluence of the stars offered up real-time examples of democracy in action that cannot be ignored. Congressional hearings revealed steps taken on and before January 6, 2021, that threatened the Republic. Bipartisan Senate legislation was passed on gun control. Supreme Court decisions were handed down on abortion rights and gun rights that will impact generations of Americans.

Talking heads on both sides of the political aisle explained (from their point of view) the implications and consequences of these actions. Sadly, too many Americans are ignorant as to how our form of government works, not to mention unfamiliar with the governing documents that are currently central to the changes happening. This leaves the talking heads on news networks free reign to act as civics tutors.

Guiding Principles

The key document for our Republic is the Constitution. If you are of a certain age, like me you memorized portions of this document at some point in your primary education. Whether you went further into the document than that depends on many things. If you studied law, you are much more familiar with its contents. If you helped someone to become a citizen, you probably quizzed that person on the different parts. Or maybe you merely parrot back what has been told to you by an influential authority figure.

It is a remarkable document in its construction, idealism, and philosophic foundation. Even more remarkably, it seems to transcend time itself, being understood to be a “living document”. It was not, however, perfect (or writ by God’s Hand as some believe). Since ratified in 1791, there have been 27 amendments passed. More have been proposed.

Amend the Constitution

With all that has been going on, I felt inspired to contemplate just how I would amend the Constitution. For originalists who may be reading this, not to worry – my suggestions merely clarify and amplify.

The first ten Amendments are collectively known as the “Bill of Rights”. I am proposing that we add, as a complement, a Bill of Responsibilities.

Bill of RightsBill of Responsibilities
Amendment I
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; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.
In exercising this right, citizens, individually or in groups, and Congress shall accept responsibility for any and all harmful consequences that occur, whether intentional or unintentional, and be subject to prosecution for same.
Amendment II
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.
In exercising this right, citizens, individually or in groups, militias, and Congress shall accept responsibility for any and all harmful consequences that occur, whether intentional or unintentional and be subject to prosecution for same.
Amendment III
No Soldier shall, in time of peace be quartered in any house, without the consent of the Owner, nor in time of war, but in a manner to be prescribed by law.
In exercising this right, citizens, individually or in groups, local militias, and Congress shall accept responsibility for any and all harmful consequences that occur, whether intentional or unintentional and be subject to prosecution for same.
Amendment IV
The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.
In exercising this right, citizens, individually or in groups, law enforcement, those involved or connected with the Dark Web or other internet users, and Congress shall accept responsibility for any and all harmful consequences that occur, whether intentional or unintentional and be subject to prosecution for same.
Amendment V
No person shall be held to answer for a capital, or otherwise infamous crime, unless on a presentment or indictment of a Grand Jury, except in cases arising in the land or naval forces, or in the Militia, when in actual service in time of War or public danger; nor shall any person be subject for the same offense to be twice put in jeopardy of life or limb; nor shall be compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against himself, nor be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor shall private property be taken for public use, without just compensation
In exercising this right, citizens, individually or in groups, law enforcement, Courts and Congress shall accept responsibility for any and all harmful consequences that occur, whether intentional or unintentional and be subject to prosecution for same.
Amendment VI
In all criminal prosecutions, the accused shall enjoy the right to a speedy and public trial, by an impartial jury of the State and district wherein the crime shall have been committed, which district shall have been previously ascertained by law, and to be informed of the nature and cause of the accusation; to be confronted with the witnesses against him; to have compulsory process for obtaining witnesses in his favor, and to have the Assistance of Counsel for his defense.
In exercising this right, citizens, individually or in groups, Courts and Congress shall accept responsibility for any and all harmful consequences that occur, whether intentional or unintentional and be subject to prosecution for same.
Amendment VII
In Suits at common law, where the value in controversy shall exceed twenty dollars, the right of trial by jury shall be preserved, and no fact tried by a jury, shall be otherwise re-examined in any Court of the United States, than according to the rules of the common law.
In exercising this right, citizens, individually or in groups, Courts and Congress shall accept responsibility for any and all harmful consequences that occur, whether intentional or unintentional and be subject to prosecution for same.
Amendment VIII
Excessive bail shall not be required, nor excessive fines imposed, nor cruel and unusual punishments inflicted.
In exercising this right, citizens, individually or in groups, and Congress shall accept responsibility for any and all harmful consequences that occur, whether intentional or unintentional and be subject to prosecution for same.
Amendment IX
The enumeration in the Constitution, of certain rights, shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people.
In exercising this right, citizens, individually or in groups, and Congress shall accept responsibility for any and all harmful consequences that occur, whether intentional or unintentional and be subject to prosecution for same.
Amendment X
The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.
In exercising these powers, States, individually or in groups, and Congress shall accept responsibility for any and all harmful consequences that occur, whether intentional or unintentional and be subject to prosecution for same.

What Makes Us Different

What makes us different as a nation is that we have lived under a collective agreement to abide by the rule of law set forth in our Constitution for 233 years. Not all societies buy in to that agreement, and frankly, based on evidence gathered by the January 6th Committee and shared to date, I am not sure how many Americans believe this agreement applies to them.

Democracy is a group activity. The two-party system exists only because we have agreed to it. It can be changed, and perhaps it needs to be changed. Those of us who grew up during the 1960s and 1970s witnessed such foment and lived to see the benefit of those changes.

Consider Change

The strength of our democracy is found in our ability to consider change using the rule of law. I can remember when things were actually debated in Congress rather than legislated over the airwaves on privately-held, so-called news networks. These decisions were validated at the polling booth, not a poll conducted on the internet.

I want to believe that we can weather these challenges and act responsibly for the greater good, in order to form a more perfect union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity.

3 responses to “Bill of Responsibilities”

  1. Barbara A Mahon Avatar

    Another tragic day in the life of Scotus and in the land…. , separation of chuch and state..GONE, Women’right to privacy IIN her body. No greater RAPE. Patriarchy at its worst. Carry Guns, anywhere for any purpose. I despair even as other good and wise people stay the course.. A dark force at work.

  2. Tim Gieseke MD Avatar

    Thanks for posting the Bill of Rights with cautions about their applications. I’ve worked as a physician in a few countries in this world with very limited resources. The abuses of those in power occurs far more regularly in those countries and the voice of the common people are commonly suppressed. We don’t have a perfect system of governance, but it’s much better than what I’ve seen in multiple other countries. As Mary says, our governing system can change, but change sometimes occurs more slowly than we would like and the ultimate change may be a compromise.

  3. Berkeley Fuller-Lewis Avatar

    IMHO, generations of decent, responsible, law-biding, tax-paying “ordinary” Americans have been fed loads of bollix about the U.S. Constitution. From my detailed study of it (at Harvard, thereafter, including reading the founding father’s original-source letters, and lectures by a stunning group of professors there . . . from all political persuasions), long ago I concluded that the American “Revolution” had one goal: Wrest the money-making machinery FROM the British and hand it over TO the White Male Landed & Merchant political “elite.” That was THEIR notion of “democracy” (Jefferson excluded, although he too was an elitest slave-owner).

    All the rest was “style” . . . paraphrases from French radical thinkers dropped in to help enroll the masses, since foot soldiers are always needed. Anyone who thinks my view is cynical has ignored most resulting U.S. History: slavery, racism, “Manifest Destiny” (license to steal an entire continent), Native American genocide, and of course Social “Darwinism” (the survival of the most brutal and sociopathic). This country’s FOUNDATIONS were corrupt and bent. Today is merely the logical outfall.

    BTW, I am the great-great-great-great grandson of BOTH New England slaver merchants AND Southern plantation owners. In my 20s, I left both families in revulsion (as their entitled, elitist and totally rationalizing attitudes are despicable, and “typical.”

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