Publication Date 9-28-17

 I don’t want to write this column. It’s just going to make people cranky.

At this moment, a couple of guys are replacing three, hundred-year-old windows upstairs in my house, and it’s taking all my will power to not spend the afternoon helping them. They don’t need my help, but it would be more fun than what I’m doing now.

Oh, well. Here I go again - fifth time’s the charm.

As an American, I believe that rights matter a lot. The second paragraph of the Declaration of Independence is all about rights.

In case it’s been a while since you read the Declaration of Independence, or on the off chance that during eighth grade Civics class your mind was on other things, here’s a brief summary. 

The first paragraph says we’re cutting loose from the King of England and we figure the world deserves an explanation.

The second paragraph sums up what a government should do, the “Life, Liberty, and Pursuit of Happiness” section. It also says we know this document is a big deal and not something we take lightly.

After that is a long section, the bulk of the document, which lists everything the King of England and his minions did to annoy us. That’s the “Taxation without Representation” part. 

Next come two short paragraphs listing what we’ve done to make our case, short of war.  “In every stage of these Oppressions We have Petitioned for Redress.”

The final paragraph is where we say “So long” to the British Empire. And, to my mind, the most important sentence of all:  “…we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes, and our Sacred Honor.”

There you go. Fourteen hundred and fifty-eight words and I explained it all in 154.  Take that, Thomas Jefferson.

You know, every now and then I’ll write a column about one thing or another and in response I’ll get an email that reads, “You should run for higher office!”

That’s the dumbest idea ever. For one thing, I’ve spent my whole life working to get to the point where I can watch the sun rise over our slough. Wearing a suit and being nice to rich donors holds no attractions whatsoever. Plus, I’d never get elected. There’s no way I’d fit into the current Republican Party and it’s been hinted that the Democratic Party wouldn’t be thrilled with my presence either. I’d need to start my own party and it’s hard to see how it would gain traction, because I’d call it the “Rights AND Responsibilities Party.”

A lot of things fall into place if you include rights and responsibilities. For instance, the Great Recession was kicked off by millions of bad mortgages. If the people who wrote those mortgages would have had to back them up, they wouldn’t have been written. Instead, they were sold off to investors and after the crash, the big banks used taxpayer money to pay themselves bonuses.

Want free health care? Nothing is free. As a country, we spend about $9,000.00 per person on health care. That includes insurance, copays, Medicare, Medicaid - all that stuff. We can’t get it for nothing, but we can do a lot better at spreading the cost fairly. And we could do a lot better about taking responsibility for our own health.  People hate the government telling them to eat healthy, exercise, and stop smoking.  Here’s a thought – the government shouldn’t have to do that.

Free college? I’m all for that. How about one year of education at a state institution in exchange for a year of service to your country? Could be in the military, picking up trash in a national park, or perhaps scrubbing graffiti off city walls. If that’s how you paid for college, my guess is you wouldn’t skip your 8:00 a.m. class.

It’s so easy! Why don’t we do it? It’s right there, in the document Americans honor above all others. We have rights, but we need to protect those rights by rising to our responsibilities. It’s a basic rule of the universe; yin and yang, dark and light. 

Rights and responsibility. It’s a good idea. It’s just an idea that no one will vote for.

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