Inalienable Rights

Inalienable Rights

Virginian Thomas Jefferson was a young man when he penned the words expressed among political philosophers of the time that there were natural rights “endowed by their creator” that all persons possess. His phrase in the Declaration of Independence that preceded that assertion, “all men are created equal,” gained the most notice and debate even until today. Equality is in the eyes of the law. We hear on regular news broadcasts that a person who held the highest office in the land is “not above the law” and is subject to criminal indictment just as we would be if we had lied, deceived and fomented a crisis intended to take over the government. His trial and I believe subsequent conviction will be the right thing to do in our democracy and will be the best civics lesson that we could teach to anyone at a time when there is a dearth of knowledge and understanding of our system of government.

Even more misunderstood and violated than equality under the law are the words that Jefferson wrote about the result of that equality, “and are endowed by their creator with certain inalienable rights that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.” Life begins at the time of birth for it is inconceivable that a fetus would possess the rights that flow from this phrase. At the time it was only white men who came closest to having these inalienable rights as practiced at the time. Certainly, women were limited in their liberties and opportunities to pursue happiness, and if your skin color was not white you could forget any hope of realizing its promise. Even the U.S. Constitution recognized slavery and left to the states its implementation without protection of enslaved persons’ liberties and happiness.

I grew up in segregated Virginia in the 1940s and 50s when Black children could not attend schools with white children by authority of the state constitution. No reason was given to me and the other children at the time other than that was the way it was. It took a Supreme Court decision and more court decisions to ensure equal protection of the law in education as provided for in the Constitution and its amendments and as foreshadowed as inalienable rights.

My grave concern is the way that the current governor of Virginia steps without hesitation on the inalienable rights of the citizens of the Commonwealth. If it fits his partisan agenda of seeking higher office, he will go for it. If Florida and his major competitor for the presidency rewrites its history to fit a partisan theme, he does the same in Virginia regardless of the inaccuracies in the new history. If the governor of Texas wants to make a partisan point about immigrants and the border, Virginia’s governor will spend several million dollars and move Virginia citizens in the National Guard away from their families to the Southern border to make a partisan point. The governor of Virginia ignores any inalienable rights of LGBTQ+ citizen rights.

A guiding principle in the formation of our government was the inalienable rights of our citizens. It is time to recognize and protect those rights for all our citizens!