Wednesday, October 5, 2016

What are "natural rights" ?

The discussion Americans should be having, the discussion that is truly relevant to their decline as a nation, is not about laws or governments, but about what Americans truly believe.  Do they even know anymore? Is it what they espouse in their founding documents, but betray every day, around the world?

Americans face a crisis of "courage," unable to find the necessary moral courage to stand for their principles, resolutely, in the face of fear.  They folded so suddenly, seemingly instantly, when threatened, it was truly shameful. One of the most basic belief of all Americans, a foundational belief of the nation, is that our rights, our freedoms, are "inalienable human rights."   They are 1) Rights possessed by all human beings, 2) Rights granted by God (if you are a believer), not granted to us by men or governments, but inherent at birth, they are "natural rights," and because of that, 3) Rights that cannot be denied us by men or their governments; they cannot be legislated away – not by a vote of Congress, not by the consensus of our neighbours, not even by agreement of all Americans but one.

It is true that we grant ourselves our freedoms in our laws and we protect them in our courts; but more importantly, we protect and defend our freedoms when we exercise them, and guard them when we insist that those freedoms be granted to others, even those with whom we strongly disagree.

We defend our own rights, liberties, and dignity when we protect the rights of those who we may not even feel deserve them, especially those who are powerless to defend themselves.  Americans: remember?  Canadians: remember?

Three years ago, when Russian President Vladimir Putin tried to remind Americans of that, when he said, in an open letter addressed to all the people of the United States of America: 

I disagree with a case US President Obama made on American exceptionalism,
stating that the United States' policy "is what makes America different. It's what
makes us exceptional." It is extremely dangerous to encourage people to see
themselves as exceptional, whatever the motivation. There are big countries and
small countries, rich and poor, those with long democratic traditions and those
still finding their way to democracy. Their policies differ, too. We are all different,
but when we ask for the Lord’s blessings, we must not forget that God created
us equal.

God created us equal?  In what sense do you think he meant that?  I'll tell you, because I was reared in that belief: we all possess certain natural rights, and that belief is essential to America.  Or was. And that's the point I'm trying to make; that a firm belief in the principle of natural rights is essential to the American nation; and has been since its founding.  By violating that principle, in a number of places around the world, Americans aren't merely guilty of violating the rights of others, or of violating international laws that exist to protect those rights; American are guilty of betraying themselves.  Profoundly.

Or, as President Putin said, in his letter, "Millions around the world increasingly see America not as a model of democracy but as relying solely on brute force, cobbling coalitions together under the slogan 'you're either with us or against us'."

Read President Putin's brief letter, if you haven't.  The media spin on it was total propaganda.  Read it for yourself; it's not long; it's not complicated.  And it's very relevant to Americans today:

President Putin made a direct appeal to "natural rights", on which the United States was founded.  What are natural rights?  They are the rights of every human being, from birth; they are not granted by governments or by men; but are inherent to all human beings; endowed by their creator, if you have a religious faith.  It is only in the possession of these natural rights that we can be considered "equal."  And the preservation of these rights is the duty of all governments.  It is only in the abridgement of these rights that nations can set themselves up as superior or "exceptional" in the world. It is only in defending the rights of others that nations truly rise to a higher standard; one that actually deserves the description of "leadership.'

Inclusive Freedom. Expansive Freedom. That is the Canadian idea of Liberty.

The idea that the liberty of all is enhanced when new freedoms are granted to
Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, March 9, 2015
In a speech delivered at the McGill Institute for the Study of Canada