Constitution, Current Events

It’s time to remember we are a Republic

As a complement to the piece I wrote last week regarding Chick-fil-A, I wanted to delve into an area that wasn’t specifically mentioned prior.  This area deals with the difference between the actions a private citizen is free, and protected by the Constitution, to undertake versus the actions of our political leaders, who, as still presumed by our Constitution, are part of our representative Republic.

It’s important to note that we do not live in a Democracy — not a true Democracy.  If we did, we would have to embrace the tenants of mob rule.  If we were a Democracy, then the majority would get its way every time.  There are no minority rights.  If a town consists of 100 people and 51 decide it’s time for a hanging, well, too bad for someone.  The other 49 could cry out until their throats went raw and it wouldn’t matter.  Democracy is two wolves and a sheep deciding what’s for dinner.

In a Republic, the majority rules, but never at the expense of the rights of the minority, which are protected within our Constitution and the Bill of Rights.  No matter how much you may dislike the opinion of someone else, they have the same right to speak their opinion as you have to voice opposition to it, so long as neither person’s rights are infringed.

Our particular form of government goes one step further by allowing its citizens to elect representatives to help manage the day-to-day operations of our nation.  Hence, we live in a representative Republic.

But these representatives have slowly been forgetting their role is to represent the majority of its citizens, with respect the rights of the minority.  In this way, their job as an elected official is to reflect the desires of his or her constituency, so long as those desires do not step on the rights of others.

This is the hallmark of the freedoms and liberties we have in the United States of America.  Think how powerful this ideology is when compared to socialist, marxist, and communist nations.  We actually believe that any individual is free to live however they choose so long as they do not cause harm to another citizen’s right to life, liberty, and property.  We do not submit to the notion that a select few should be allowed to think for everyone else, let alone have the power to enact legislation that infringes on anyone’s rights as defined by our Constitution.

However, as mentioned above, some of our elected leaders have forgotten this principle, choosing to embrace the support of a vocal, sometimes militant, minority regardless of how it infringes on the rights of other citizens.  And though I’m focused on the recent irrational strife between a business in the private sector and several elected leaders, this is not the first time we’ve seen such a clash.  We as citizens of this country need to understand why these incidents are alarming, especially to those who revere the Constitution and hold the ideals of our Founding Fathers as the example to aspire to, not dusty thoughts from which to run away.

Every individual citizen has the right to turn the TV on or off as they see fit.  They can tune into whichever radio station suits their fancy and change the station if something comes on they dislike.  Every American can choose to pay $15 for a pair of jeans or $200.  It’s within the scope of individual freedom that anyone in our country can elect to eat at one fast-food restaurant but not another.

My earlier post dealt rather sarcastically into how some people, who have a different set of core beliefs, have gone far beyond making a personal decision to not spend their money at Chick-fil-A.  In fact, there is a militant minority who are so incensed they feel compelled to label this company as hate-filled and to foster a crusade against them based solely on the same words uttered by our own President.  In fact, up until it became politically expedient to “evolve” his views, President Obama was in lock-step with the same beliefs stated recently by Dan Cathy, even using the same words.

Whether you agree with the belief that the term “marriage” means a man and a woman or you believe it should be expanded to mean any two people in love regardless of gender, neither one of those beliefs contains a hateful element.  To twist it that way not only denigrates the conversation, but also leaves those on the periphery with feelings that range from disgust to apathy.

Is that really the goal of the militant few?  To attack the personal beliefs of another person through hyperbole and zealotry in hopes of irritating everyone else?  Whether you are on one side of the debate or the other, there is a common thread joining everyone together — a sense of agitation.  Those who are in favor of a traditional definition of marriage feel like they are under attack, regardless of whether or not they have stepped foot inside a Chick-fil-A.  Those who favor a more liberal definition of marriage feel like they have to be on the attack to gain acceptance for their view.  In either case, at its best, it’s an irritating situation and, at its worst, elicits anger and hatred.  People not even connected one way or the other are feeling pressure to pick a side — as if this a sporting event where there will be one winner and one loser.

Right now, we are all losers.

It’s not enough for the zealots (and rage-fueled zealotry on either side of the political spectrum always leads to poor policy) to craft a firestorm over a religious difference of opinion, it’s moved toward an orchestrated campaign, including fake tweets, social media spamming of bitter political cartoons and user-created anti-Chick-fil-A posters (which are just as hate-filled as the subject they purport to reflect).  Now we have elected politicians in San Francisco, Chicago, Boston and Philadelphia making monarchy-like edicts that they will not allow another building permit for this business so long as they are in charge.  If you are a militant activist, this may fill you with pride, but the old saying applies, “Careful what you wish for, you just might get it.”

Today, your crusade may be to ruin a private business simply because you disagree with their views.  Do we really want to engage in this kind of mob rule?  Do we want to have our elected officials feel they can infringe on the rights of others simply because it gains them favor from a vocal subset of the electorate?

Take the particular subject off the table but leave the construct.  Let’s play a version of Mad-Libs where the story is locked in place with appropriate blanks for nouns, verbs and adjectives.  What would you be saying if those same leaders made the following statement:

The values of the gun control lobby are not in line with those of our city.  We are not going to allow them to build their anti-gun propaganda facility in our community.  We stand with the owners of assault weapons and will continue to support ownership of the most powerful guns available.

Suddenly, it may not sound so appealing to get all excited about government believing they can ignore the rights of some in order to cater to the views of others.  Shouldn’t this worry everyone in our country, irrespective of your views on the definition of marriage?  This way of thinking is not unlike what happened to Jewish owned businesses in Germany in the mid 1930’s.  If you weren’t Jewish, seeing someone else’s business shut down based on a differing religious view may not have bothered you at all.  In fact, you may have cheered about it.  But, look what happened when leadership become emboldened after being allowed to infringe on the rights of a sub-set of the population — a fascist regime came to power with a dictator at its helm.

This is something our Founding Fathers feared above anything else — that a form of monarchy would take root in our own country.  The crafting of our Constitution was a painstaking process for precisely this reason.  Regardless of personal philosophy, the one common outcome each of the framers wanted was to ensure individuals in our country would be able to live a life of independence, freedom and liberty, free from the tyranny of a central government.

Any citizen in our country is free to express themselves and to choose to support or not support any private business.  A gray area begins to form when individuals feel it is necessary to craft a campaign based on exaggeration, anger and spin in order to inflame others.  But there is no mistaking that elected officials are completely wrong to take a position that allows them to infringe on the rights of others.

It doesn’t matter how angry those officials may get over someone else’s personal views, we have the freedom in this country to think differently and spend our money as we want, so long as it does not take away someone else’s rights.  It’s a simple concept, but one that is so hard to keep in mind when someone has really upset you.  The degree to which you truly believe in the Constitution and the Bill of Rights does not get tested when you are in agreement with someone.  The true test comes from when someone is diametrically opposed to your views and you are still willing to fight for them as much as if you had agreed.  Heck, even the ladies on The View understand that.

We should all feel great concern when any politician feels it’s in his or her interest to ignore the Constitution.  That document was specifically designed to tell government what it cannot do.  The rights called out in that document do not come from government — they exist within each of us and come from a much grander place than a man-made institution.  The moment we feel it is okay to ignore its precepts because of an emotional tide is the moment we cease to be a free nation.  To seek the ruin of a business (and the thousands of lives connected to it) for no other reason than over a religious difference is tantamount to endorsing anarchy.  Not a single person’s rights, as defined by the Constitution, have been abused by the words of Dan Cathy (or Louis Farrakhan for that matter).

And by the way, no where in our Constitution or the Bill of Rights does it state you have the right to not be offended.

Personally, I believe that words have meaning and it is not up to the whim of others to change those definitions.  Marriage, throughout the earliest of times, has been described as the union of a man and a woman.  On the flip side, I embrace freedom and individualism and believe there should be legal protections for same-sex unions to give those couples the exact same legal rights that married unions have — shared insurance benefits, survivorship benefits, rights to shared assets, etc.  This makes legal sense and should be enacted and can make for a topic on another day.

Suffice it to say, I want as much freedom in this country as possible.  Am I a hate monger because my definition is different from yours?  Do I deserve to have an orchestrated campaign against me, my family and my business for having those beliefs?  I want to see the same legal benefits for any committed couple, I just do not want to redefine a word and the religious connotations that I have had for my entire life.

But, more importantly, I do not want an elected official to feel as though he or she is the ultimate arbiter — judge, jury and executioner — of the personal beliefs of individuals over which they feel they have dominion.  Regardless of your personal beliefs, you, too, should fear where that leads.

4 thoughts on “It’s time to remember we are a Republic”

  1. True enough, C-F-a is free to say what it wants, and the government should not say they may not go here or there for reasons related to that speech. However, I have the right of more speech to discourage other businesses from leasing them space to spread their speech, and (of course) I can choose to not patronize them, and to encourage my friends to do likewise.

    It *is* a point that requires a fine balance on *both* sides.

  2. Very well said Alan. Although we don’t always see eye to eye I think you stated this issue very well.

  3. Although Chick-fil-A has been donating to certain organizations for a long time, I think it’s just now become public interest because of Mr. Cathy’s public statements. At least one organization that CFA donates to is a certified hate group (FRC, certified by the Southern Poverty Law Center) and at least one other is known for spreading unfounded “facts” about homosexuality, including that it is a mental disorder (Focus on the Family). Other organizations have been known to claim that they can “pray away the gay,” not unlike types of exorcisms. (Yes, comparing an exorcism to a “pray away the gay” session is a little hyperbolic; I’m prone to dramatic gestures.)

    Many of the people that are boycotting or protesting feel that CFA does support the infringement of basic human rights- that is, the right to choose one’s own partner. I do agree that this has been completely blown out of proportion; CFA has been donating to these groups for years without major public outcry. Furthermore, one could likely have guessed what CFA’s position is on gay marriage without needing to make an issue out of it. Also, the mayors of those cities are making promises that they just aren’t going to be able to keep and shouldn’t have made in the first place because, as you stated so well, they are not monarchs wielding divine right of power.

    We see different sides on the fundamental definitions of words; I see that words are changing meaning and connotation all the time. There was a time when “gay” meant happy and “queer” meant slightly odd and “pussy” was a kitten and “Dick” was a boy who played with Jane. In another light, “tea” means to me iced Lipton tea in a glass. To a Brit, it’s likely hot tea in a china cup. Both are legitimate definitions and I have no right to tell a Brit that their definition of tea is wrong. Technically, my iced tea came later and would therefore be the “false tea.” To believe that one word cannot have more than one definition or that a definition cannot change over time is a logical fallacy.

    I appreciate all of the thought that you have put into this topic. I have been enjoying reading certain articles regarding this decision and yours is one of the better thought out ones that I’ve read. I’m impressed at the neutrality with which you approached this topic and I’m a little taken aback that I find I agree with you on several points. It’s a pleasant surprise.

    I’m vegan, so boycotting CFA is a moot point for me. Also, I already knew about the organizations that they donate to, so none of this is a surprise to me. — Laurel

    1. Thanks for reading and, more importantly, for taking the time to voice your thoughts as well. Our goal is put out well thought out (to the best of our ability) arguments and let others weigh in on the matter. Please feel free to share and suggest others see what we are all about.


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