Dec 15: Bill of Rights Day
The first two things to acknowledge on this profound day is 1) the single purpose of any legitimate government is to protect the inalienable human rights of all its subjects.
By Chuck Woolery, Former Chair, United Nation’s Association Council of Organizations
People who freely enter into any arrangement (political, economic, religious, educational, matrimonial, engineering…) must put the protection of ‘life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness’ as the top priority for all adults. If not, their prospects for maximizing their own freedom, security and prosperity will be increasingly difficult.
Second, we must recognize that our nation exists today because our founding fathers amended our Constitution with a Bill of Rights. Unfortunately, the Amendments didn’t abide by the fundamental principles our founders listed in their Declaration of Independence. The unamended Constitution made a serious attempt to limit the power of government and the addition of a Bill of Rights did more. But not enough.
Our entire government blueprint was based on a western human concept from those times referred to as ‘independence’. Unclear to most western minds at that time was the fact that all systems and structures in the world were totally and irreversibly interdependent. Even today with massive advances in technology making the world more connected and interdependent the concept of independence still survives and thrives without pause.
Creation of the US Constitution required compromise. The great compromise that counted slaves as 3/5ths of a person violated the fundamental principle that the founders highlighted in the Declaration of Independence but without it the Constitution may not have been ratified. But that error eventually confirmed Thomas Jefferson’s “fear for America that there is a just God” when our nation was divided by a war that killed more Americans than all the wars that our nation has fought in since then, combined!!!
Compromise remains essential as human perceptions evolved alongside of advances in technology that brings people and goods together from further away, faster, and cheaper than ever before. But what never changes is fundamental principles. Our founding fathers labeled them “self-evident” “Truths” in the Declaration of Independence.
According the “Laws of Nature and Nature’s God” all people are endowed with certain inalienable rights. Yet today, our Bill of Rights is seen by most Americans as given to us by our government, so they do not apply to others. This compromise of fundamental principles will continue to cost us dearly in blood and treasure. It will also chip away at our freedoms.
Today, most Americans would agree that compromise between our two estranged political parties is essential for any amount of progress. The possibility creating a more perfect union remains impossible with each party demonizing the other. Making important progress on vitally important and increasingly urgent issues that threaten our health, wealth and sustainability won’t happen unless venous rhetoric is replace with serious, open, and rational debate.
Threats like the debt, global warming, the evolution of weaponry and war are comingling with growing income inequality, globally unregulated advancements in technology, and what’s left of the worst aspects of global poverty that still kills over 11,000 children every day from easily preventable malnutrition and infectious diseases. While more children suffer ill health today from obesity than hunger, malnutrition and infectious diseases remain the most lethal human rights injustice which exacerbates wars and the spawning refuges, revolutions, and pandemics with irreversible connections to terrorism, international crime, WMD proliferation, and corruption.
And, all of these destructive forces are irreversibly connected and interdependent with each other thwarting any attempt by governments to deal with them using independent agencies or independent governments even if they could find it in their budgets to compromise with each other. The “Laws of Nature and Nature’s God’ do not compromise.
What is needed is wholistic/comprehensive solutions. And the only practical approach fitting that need today is the 17 Sustainable Development Goals. If they are not met by 2030 it will be because of a lack of funding. Or, the human principle we call “international law. The lawlessness that it allows establishes security threats between nations. And this spurs the evolution of weaponry and war motivating governments to acquire unlimited military power to ensure their own preservation.
Investments in human capital or our vital environment are rarely made with comparable commitment. That’s a monstrous national security risk. Pandemics, global warming and terrorism mixed with WMD proliferation are immune to military power. In fact, when used to violate human rights it exacerbates these threats.
This evolution of war and weaponry will inevitably end. It will either be with our willful abolition of the supremacy of national sovereignty over human rights, or, it will end civilization or the possible extinction of our species in the months or years to come.
“Unlimited power is in itself a bad and dangerous thing. Human beings are not competent to exercise it with discretion. God alone can be omnipotent, because his wisdom and his justice are always equal to his power. There is no power on earth so worthy of honor in itself, or clothed with rights so sacred, that I would admit its uncontrolled and all-predominant authority. When I see that the right and the means of absolute command are conferred on any power whatever, be it called a people or a king, an aristocracy or a republic, I say there is the germ of tyranny, and I seek to live elsewhere, under other laws.” – Alexis de Tocqueville, Democracy in America 
Our Bill of Rights is profound in that it is enforceable. Additional amendments have made life, liberty and pursuit of happiness somewhat better for almost all men and women within our borders. But additional Amendments are needed. Until ‘we the people’ (who are ultimately responsible for our government’s actions) demand that our Constitution abides by the fundamental principles delineated in our Declaration of Independence (protecting all inalienable human rights equally and globally), we will continue to see both our freedoms and our security diminished domestically.
President Bush was right. Al Qaeda did attack us on 9-11 because they hated our freedoms. But it wasn’t our movies, wasteful consumption, and democracy that they hated. What most Americans still continue to ignore is the history of our nation’s freedom in using our military and economic power to support abusive and murderous regimes. Most of us here didn’t see what was happening over there. And too many lives over there did. They felt it and millions were killed and crippled by it.
Unprecedented advances in increasingly powerful dual-use technology combined with our increasing interdependence with the rest of the world should wake us up to the need to be more protective of all human rights. And, only support nations that do the same.
We will always remain free to do as we please as Americans. But we will never be free of the consequences in this increasingly interconnected world where we are the most dependent on technology. Vulnerable technology. Technology can be used to protect human rights or abuse them. It is up to the spirit and the laws of ‘we the people’ that will determine how we will use our freedoms, and how well our own freedoms will be protected.
We have always cherished our freedom, our security and our independence. The fact is we can only have two of the three. It’s time we chose wisely.
About the Author
Chuck’s professional grassroots organizing and advocacy successes on global health issues led to his elected position on the respected Action Board of the American Public Health Association (membership of 120,000 US Health Professionals). Later he was then elected by his peers to Chair the United Nation’s Association Council of Organizations (over 110 US based NGOs representing a collective membership of over 25 million Americans). His focus has been connecting local and global issues to US national security interests and using non-partisan fundamental principles to advance public thinking and US policy on vital systems and structures essential to forming a more perfect union.
Chuck credits much of his successes to his mother’s love and his background in Biology and wrestling. He qualified for the Olympic Trials only to find out he was seriously not qualified – but was honored to make it that far coming from a childhood of obesity and sloth. “We are all”, he says “always wrestling with issues and concerns our entire lives. Or we should be — given the persistent changes in our bodies and the world.” “Loving persistence” and “ruthless compassion” are two qualities his mentors offered him. Perhaps to his detriment he usually offers what people need to hear instead of what they want to hear. Chuck is an avid quote collector… one of his many favorites — “Science is my passion, politics my duty.” Thomas Jefferson