“Sometimes, even presidents need reminding that our rights come from nature and God, not from government,” said Paul Ryan in his speech on Wednesday nights.
Evidently dreary MSNBC hosts need that reminder too, because Toure – who is almost as race-obsessed as Chris Matthews, but not as amusingly deranged – pronounced himself deeply offended, along with an unspecified, but allegedly very large, portion of the American population.
“He loves this line of ‘our rights come from God and nature’, which is so offensive to so much of America,” pontificated the MSNBC personality. “Because for black people, Hispanic people, and women, our rights do not come from God or nature. They were not recognized by the natural order of America. They come from the government and from legislation that happens in relatively recent history in America. So that line just bothers me to my core.”
It bothers me to my core that a news network would employ someone who needs a grade school course in remedial civics, but I’m a giving soul, so I’ll provide one. I’ll keep it light and simple.
The Declaration of Independence says: “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.”
This is a very important concept. The signatories of the Declaration were saying that certain rights are built directly into each human being. You don’t actually have to believe in God to understand the concept. You enter this world with unalienable rights that are not granted by the government… and cannot be withdrawn at the pleasure of government. No one can pass legislation to take these rights away. Even if every single one of your fellow citizens votes to strip one of your unalienable rights from you, the government cannot do so, without sacrificing its legitimacy.
From this concept we draw one of humanity’s greatest moral and intellectual achievements: laws that restrain the government. That’s where the Constitution comes in, particularly the Bill of Rights. In essence, it’s a list of things the government cannot do, even with the overwhelming democratic support of its citizens. The Constitution itself can be amended, but that’s very difficult to do, and no such amendment would be legitimate if it were an offense against the very narrow set of rights endowed by our Creator. This is a key component in the transition from away from raw “democracy” and mob rule, toward the vastly superior governance of a lawful republic.
Look at it this way: without unalienable rights and unbreakable restraints upon the power of government, the castaways on Gilligan’s Island can form a democracy and vote 5-2 to dispose of Gilligan once and for all, as punishment for his constant bungling of their attempts to escape from the island. (You’re never going to get Mary Ann to vote in favor of executing Gilligan.)
To address Toure’s specific complaint, the essential truth of our rights descending from God and nature was not altered by any specific government’s failure to recognize them. The “legislation that happened in relatively recent history in America” that he refers to did not create those rights – it acknowledged them. The rights were there all along.
To say otherwise is to do more than just bicker with Paul Ryan’s, or the Founding Fathers’, choice of words. It is the surrender of a crucial concept that illuminates the American understanding of liberty and order – two powerful forces which are not easily balanced. The notion of unalienable rights is a priceless treasure that has implications far beyond any instance of racial strife. And it was never meant to be an exclusively American treasure. Every captive suffering beneath the heel of despotism has the same unalienable rights as a child born in the United States today. The difference is that their wretched, illegitimate governments fail to recognize those rights.
There are things the government may not do. There are rights no legitimate Congress or Administration may ever strip from us – not even when it means well, or thinks it knows what’s best for us, or enjoys strong support at the polls. The malevolent or benevolent intentions of a prospective despot have absolutely no bearing upon his legitimacy. We cannot be legitimately stripped of our God-given natural rights for the profit of one… or for the good of many. And no bounty granted through subsequent legislation or executive order can share the status of those natural rights, or transgress against them. After all, what the government “gives us” today can be taken away tomorrow.
It should be necessary to explain all this to any adult American. But, sadly, it is, because there are ongoing efforts to play off racial division and bitterness, to bully many of our citizens into abandoning their Constitutional birthright.