It’s So 18th Century

Sometimes, all it takes is a phrase to start my mind going. In this case, it was a post by a friend of a meme that said: “There is something wrong in a society in which guns and ammunition are a right, but healthcare is a privilege.” My response was that it sounded so 18th Century. I meant that in all seriousness. Let me explain.

Like anything, our country and its governing documents are a product of the time it was born, just like (although many won’t admit it) the Bible was written through the eyes of the times in which it was written. Reform Judaism, the movement to which I belong, teaches that we must continually reinterpret those timeless lessons for today’s times and values.

Consider when this country was formed, and when the Bill of Rights was written. There was persecution from England against speech and the practice of religion. There was regular quartering of soldiers in homes, and the British were confiscating guns and disbanding militias so the the people couldn’t fight back. There was slavery, and state militias were being used to enforce owner’s rights. Women were second class citizens with defined roles, and in many states, non-whites were not even citizens. Gay relationships were certainly in the closet, and as for the rest of TQ…. — you didn’t hear about it. Healthcare was non-existent or poor, and land was cheap. Anyone could be a self-starter, and redefine their identity. The world was much simpler, and the weapons less powerful. There was a fixed aristocracy, and the power of what we now call Evangelical Christianity wasn’t there. Most of the Founding Fathers were Deists. Society was such as non-Christians were fewer and less well integrated. Eastern religions? What were they? Non-Europeans or non-Africans. Miniscule populations at the time in the Americas.

This was the environment in which our Constitution and the Bill of Rights was written. It reflected the humans that wrote it, who wrote it with their immediate needs and concerns in mind. It was not intended to speak to all times; it was known by its founders to be imperfect. Consider this: We can amend the Constitution. We can’t amend the Bible. Whose authors thought it was perfect?

We’re in the 21st Century. We need a Bill of Rights for today, that reflect the timeless notion in the Declaration of Independence: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.” and in the Preamble to the Constitution: ” 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”.

What should be in this bill of rights (we can argue about citizens vs residents vs …):

  • To ensure life: All citizens must have access to a basic level of health care and preventive medicine: not only to protect their lives, but to ensure that which is communicable does not infect others.
  • To ensure life: All citizens must have a basic livable income, sufficient to provide shelter and sustenance.
  • To ensure liberty:  All people in the United States must be treated equally, irrespective of any status by birth or inheritance: religion, race, gender, orientation, sex, size, or differences in ability.
  • To ensure liberty: All citizens must have a freedom of privacy in their personal affairs.
  • To ensure liberty: All people must have the freedom to practice their religion inasmuch as it does not impinge on the rights of the others to practice their religion.
  • To ensure the pursuit of happiness: Gun ownership should be permitted but controlled to ensure the public safety: (including distinctions on the type of weapons, regular training and mental health checks, storage rules, and strict limitations on non-hunting or self-defense weapons.

Those are just a start. I’m sure you could think of more, including many of our current limits on the Government imposing its religion or a pre-set morality.

 

 

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