What Democracy Means To Me

Anyone who went to school in the United States has, at some time in their school years, written two commonly assigned essays. One was "How I Spent My Summer Vacation" and the other was "What Democracy Means To Me".

While the former may have been different, the latter had similar principles, which we were not only taught, we took for granted because it is what we lived, until five years ago.

For those who have been out of school a few years, here's a refresher:

In order to make sure power was not abused, a system of checks and balances was established by our Constitution between the three branches of government.

Most are familiar with the Bill of Rights, the first ten amendments to the Constitution.

One: guaranteed freedom of speech, now reduced to free speech zones, the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances, now the new Patriot Act forbids that with the creation of a class of criminal termed "disruptors". Today, only the lobbyists who can pay Republican politicians seem to have the right to petition the government.

Two: the right of the people to keep and bear arms, shall not be infringed, seems to still be protected by the NRA lobbyists.

Three: "No soldier shall, in time of peace be quartered in any house, without the consent of the owner," but with G.W. Bush's foreign policy, this does not extend to countries.

Four: "The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized." Unless G.W. Bush decides to ignore the Constitution, bypass the warrant and authorize the NSA to spy on American citizens.

Five: "No person shall be... deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor shall private property be taken for public use, without just compensation." That one hit the Daily Double. Not only can property be taken under "eminent domain", but Bush has kept people imprisoned without due process.

Six: "In all criminal prosecutions, the accused shall enjoy the right to a speedy and public trial, by an impartial jury...and to have the assistance of counsel for his defense." Three years of imprisonment without charges or counsel negated that one for Jose Padilla, an American citizen.

Seven: Has to do with common law.

Eight: "Excessive bail shall not be required, nor excessive fines imposed, nor cruel and unusual punishments inflicted." Torture may be cruel, but unfortunately is no longer unusual. Bush added a signing statement to the anti-torture bill that said he could ignore it. I guess his childhood penchant for torture, sticking firecrackers in frogs, throwing them up in the air and watching them blow up, was just too hard a habit to break.

.Nine: "The enumeration in the Constitution, of certain rights, shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people." How about not denying us the rights that ARE enumerated in the Constitution?

Ten: "The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the states, are reserved to the states respectively, or to the people." As in "We the People"!

Ah, the nostalgia of democracy in the pre-Bush regime era! I wonder what today's kids' essays are about.