Your Fears Don't Trump My Rights

Demonstrators are seen during a pro-gun rally, Monday, Jan. 20, 2020, in Richmond, Va. Thousands of pro-gun supporters are expected at the rally to oppose gun control legislation like universal background checks that are being pushed by the newly elected Democratic legislature. (AP Photo/Sarah Rankin)


So there I am, minding my own business, when the Raleigh Police Department in North Carolina decided that “protesting is a non-essential activity.”

The tweet was a response to someone asking what a group of protesters in the city had done to warrant being cleared out with at least one arrest. As it stood, the protesters were practicing their right to peaceably assemble, and voice their desire to reopen the state for business. According to Raleigh police, it violates the Governor’s orders.

The only problem is, as I tried to helpfully point out, that’s not how this country works.

Just to recite, the First Amendment goes like this:

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

In other words, if I and an entire battalion of mild-mannered dudes with signs want to protest our hatred of meatloaf then there’s not much the powers that be can do about it. Unless we start destroying property and physically attacking people, our right to peaceably assemble remains our right.


Seeing as how our rights come from God and not from governors, presidents, or any other authority, it looks like the anti-meatloaf crowd is going to have its say.

It bothers me that many of our elected leaders don’t seem to understand that. Be it gathering on a street or gathering at church, peaceable assembly is a decision made by the American citizen, not the elected leaders we put in office to help run things.

Yet, I expect that level of blatant disregard from elected leaders. Powerful positions attract power-hungry people. It’s not okay, but I expect it.

It bothers me more that the citizenry doesn’t seem to get it, and even those who do are willing to go on the offensive against others if they are afraid of what might happen if someone practices their rights. Both the ignorant and the fearful alike are willing to bow to authority in the name of safety. As Ben Franklin made very clear, trading freedom for safety is usually the quickest way to obtaining neither.

Franklin and the rest of the framer fam didn’t add any additional language that says that every God-given right they highlighted in the Bill of Rights suddenly goes out the window if a disease shows up. They didn’t say that in the event of a national emergency, an elected official can plop a crown on his or her head and rule by fiat. The founders even put in framework that opened an avenue for heavy consequences for would-be dictators, but this article isn’t about the Second Amendment.


Even if some of the American populace would like a ruler to enforce a much longer lockdown, it can’t happen. That’s not how our system works.

Regardless of how you might feel about people wanting to get back to work, this is still the land of the free, and last I checked, it’s also the home of the brave. Cowering in our homes and hoping someone else saves us is not what we do as a nation. You can’t be surprised if you find people flouting orders from the authorities that defy our God-given rights. It’s what we’ve done from the beginning. It’s in our blood.

This isn’t to say that I’m unsympathetic to the plight of Americans who don’t want to have any dealings with the virus for medical reasons. To them, I say we need to do what’s necessary to protect you, however forgoing my rights is far from necessary.

If I begin sacrificing my rights in order to save lives, then where does it end? People die every day from a vast array of things, and oftentimes from choices made by others. Should we stop all activity and forgo certain rights in order to make sure that no deaths occur? It’d not only be futile, it’d be a fast road to a dictatorial nation.

To that, I’m going to have to check “no.” As I’ve written before, your safety won’t improve because you managed to keep the world from moving. You aren’t safe. You’ve never been safe. Simply getting out of bed increases your risk of death or harm by huge amounts. Stepping outside your front door increases it even more. If that’s too much for you then don’t even think about starting your car, or turning on the stove, or eating at a restaurant.


You very rarely feel fear when doing any of those things, but rest assured, your likelihood of death increases exponentially. Regardless, even if you do none of those things you will, at some point, die.

The question is: Do you want to die fearful, obeying not only your fears but those who deem themselves your masters? Or do you want to die free, living a life far more full and storied?


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