Today is Individual Rights Day. Normally I save my “special day” post for later in the week, but this one feels so timely I had to talk about it in my weekly long post. Today we honor John Locke, a philosopher born in this day in 1632, who wrote extensively about the rights of each individual person that they earn simply by existing.
As US citizens we take for granted many rights that are unthinkable in other countries. We can worship, dress, eat and date as we please. We have secret ballots with more than one candidate’s name on them. We can speak up when we feel our government isn’t doing its job. We live in an amazing nation!
That being said, it’s time we all take a step back and really consider what it means for everyone to have “certain inalienable rights”. It’s far too easy for us to look at people who don’t behave exactly like we do and think of them as lesser citizens (keep in mind I AM referring to actual citizens here. Illegals are another topic for another day). I did a lot of research, and the best description I found comes from the 1995 movie The American President. If you haven’t watched it lately, do- it holds up surprisingly well 20 years later. Near the end of this movie President Andrew Shepard, played by Michael Douglas, says this during a speech:
America isn’t easy. America is advanced citizenship. You gotta want it bad, ’cause it’s gonna put up a fight. It’s gonna say “You want free speech? Let’s see you acknowledge a man whose words make your blood boil, who’s standing center stage and advocating at the top of his lungs that which you would spend a lifetime opposing at the top of yours. You want to claim this land as the land of the free? Then the symbol of your country can’t just be a flag; the symbol also has to be one of its citizens exercising his right to burn that flag in protest. Show me that, defend that, celebrate that in your classrooms. Then, you can stand up and sing about the “land of the free”.
That is America, summed up more beautifully than I ever could.
So the next time you are thinking of calling someone Unamerican for wearing a hijab, not putting their hand on their heart during the national anthem, staging a peaceful protest, or anything else that “makes your blood boil” instead remember how blessed you truly are to live in the land of the free and allow everyone else to do the same.