Tuesday, September 21, 2004

Skippy of the Day: Lewis Napper

In a recent exchange of emails, my in-laws have been discussing a document called "The Bill of Non-Rights", which has been attributed to State Representative Mitchell Kaye from GA. In reality, according to the Snopes website, it was written by Libertarian Lewis Napper of Mississippi. It's been a favorite email forward among conservatives, yet I find myself agreeing with some of it. As for the rest of it, well, let's say it's extremely misguided. Shall we begin?
ARTICLE I: You do not have the right to a new car, big screen TV, or any other form of wealth. More power to you if you can legally acquire them, but no one is guaranteeing anything.
I have never proposed those things be guaranteed, nor any liberal that I've ever heard, so where the hell this guy is coming from with this, I don't know.
ARTICLE II: You do not have the right to never be offended. This country is based on freedom, and that means freedom for everyone -- not just you! You may leave the room, turn the channel, express a different opinion, etc.; but the world is full of idiots, and probably always will be.
This particular article betrays it's Libertarian origins, since most conservatives can't stop themselves from proposing bans on this book or that movie. "Turn the channel"? That's what George Carlin has been advocating for years! Conservative are more likely to view this point in terms of "Political Correctness". Ever since a few overzealous liberals went on the PC kick back in the 1990's, Conservatives have used the term as an all-purpose bugaboo to smear liberals, whether the term applies to a given situation or not. Make no mistake, however, that Conservatives have a lot more to fear from Article II than your friendly neighborhood Liberal.
ARTICLE III: You do not have the right to be free from harm. If you stick a screwdriver in your eye, learn to be more careful, do not expect the tool manufacturer to make you and all your relatives independently wealthy.
Since we're human beings and all, there are some situations that need judgment calls, which is why we need, uh, Judges. Obviously, as most of the nation learned from that McDonalds coffee judgment years ago, there are a number of lawsuits that have little merit. Our judicial system, like our government, is imperfect but is the best we have yet to come up with. Sometimes a judge will give merit to ridiculous cases. Such is life in our imperfect system.

Conservatives, who generally hate shades of gray, would like to lump such class action lawsuits into one big ball and get rid of them. When John Kerry picked John Edwards as his running mate, conservatives immediately started to criticize Edwards for his career as a personal injury lawyer. CNN conservative talking head Tucker Carlson stated repeatedly and mockingly that Edwards handled "Jacuzzi" cases. The specific case that he's referring to is when a five year old was pinned to the bottom of a pool by a faulty drain and had most of her intestine sucked out. She survived, but will be feeding herself from an IV for the rest of her life.

So you tell me: Do you think there's a difference between a child sticking themselves in the eye with a screwdriver and a child being sucked into a faulty pool drain? If you do, then you might want to rethink your absolute ban on personal injury cases, lest you or a loved one encounter a company that compromises safety to save a few cents on manufacturing costs.

ARTICLE IV: You do not have the right to free food and housing. Americans are the most charitable people to be found, and will gladly help anyone in need, but we are quickly growing weary of subsidizing generation after generation of professional couch potatoes who achieve nothing more than the creation of another generation of professional couch potatoes.

Ah, the biggest threat to American life as we know it: The welfare mother. As if every Liberal's' prime motivation when they wake up in the morning is to prop up people like this. The welfare mother is an example of someone who abuses the system and abuses their rights. As with the class action lawsuit example I gave, just because they are such abuses does not mean the system should be excised forthwith. To be fair, the wording of this article suggests that the system should be altered, not erased. This I agree with. It's a show of intelligence when someone is willing to take the time and effort of pulling the weeds instead of just scything the garden.

ARTICLE V: You do not have the right to free health care. That would be nice, but from the looks of public housing, we're just not interested in public health care.
Who among us would honestly give equal weight to giving away free flat screen TV's and providing free health care? Health care should be a citizen's right, not a privilege that is paid for by only those who can afford it. After all, there's never been a person in this country who has needlessly died from not having an entertainment center.
ARTICLE VI: You do not have the right to physically harm other people. If you kidnap, rape, intentionally maim, or kill someone, don't be surprised if the rest of us want to see you fry in the electric chair.
I totally agree with this one, except for the capital punishment thing. Anyone who states that they "want to see you fry in the electric chair" should have sharp objects taken away from them. The concept of bloodthirst is not and should not be in our system of justice.

Instead, put such criminals away for life. If there's no room, then move one of the minimal drug offenders to a rehab facility to make room for the murderer/rapist/whatever. I was about to add something about how prisons should also not resemble resorts, but the author beat me to it with the next article.
ARTICLE VII: You do not have the right to the possessions of others. If you rob, cheat, or coerce away the goods or services of other citizens, don't be surprised if the rest of us get together and lock you away in a place where you still won't have the right to a big screen color TV or a life of leisure.
I wholeheartedly agree. Prisoners don't need Cable TV or any other luxuries (except for the absolutely decadent luxury of health care, of course). And by the way, this article should apply equally to blue and white collar criminals.

ARTICLE VIII:You don't have the right to demand that our children risk their lives in foreign wars to soothe your aching conscience. We hate oppressive governments and won't lift a finger to stop you from going to fight if you'd like. However, we do not enjoy parenting the entire world and do not want to spend so much of our time battling each and every little tyrant with a military uniform and a funny hat.
I should note that the email forward that is going around deletes the above article in favor of two additional ones that I have listed (and addressed) below. As to why some Conservatives chose to omit this particular article, I am sure that I have absolutely no idea.

Can you feel the sarcasm?
ARTICLE IX: You do not have the right to a job. All of us sure want you to have a job, and will gladly help you along in hard times, but we expect you to take advantage of the opportunities of education and vocational training laid before you to make yourself useful.
There is some truth to this, and I'm sure there are a number of people that refuse to help themselves to re-training opportunities and such. However, when people specifically talk about the government helping to create jobs, one way is to keep corporations from acting in unethical and illegal ways.

Long before he became a household name, Michael Moore got his start with a documentary called "Roger & Me". In it, he details how General Motors started cutting jobs in the 1980's and moving plants to Mexico at a time when they were making record profits. The economic boomtown of Flint, Michigan became an empty shell of its former self. Some of the people interviewed take the same cold viewpoint held by Napper by saying that GM owes nothing to Flint.

However, our government does have an obligation to see that jobs are not needlessly shipped across the border. Our government does have a duty to reconsider tax breaks to corporations receive that act against the public interest. Our government does have the job of investigating shady accounting practices. So much damage can be done to a population by a government that simply looks the other way when corporations break the law. This sort of thing must stop.
ARTICLE X: You do not have the right to happiness. Being an American means that you have to PURSUE happiness, which by the way, is a lot easier if you are unencumbered by an over abundance of idiotic laws created by those of you who were confused by the Bill of Rights.
I agree with this one in general, but the last part seems to have a lot more going on underneath than what's being said. Since I don't exactly know what he's getting at, I can't really address it.

In addition to the original views of Mr. Napper, there have been two other articles added to his list over time. The following words are not his, but I thought I would address them anyway:

ARTICLE: This is an English speaking country. We don't care where you are from, English is our language. Learn it or go back to wherever you came from.
I agree with the letter of this law, but not the speaker's spirit. I think we've all had enough of the "go back to wherever you came from" rhetoric and bile from conservatives, or are the rest of you ready to go back to England/Germany/France/Holland/or wherever else you came from?
ARTICLE: You do not have the right to change our country's history or heritage. This country was founded on the belief in one true God. And yet, you are given the freedom to believe in any religion, any faith, or no faith at all; with no fear of persecution. The phrase IN GOD WE TRUST is part of our heritage and history, and if you are uncomfortable with it, TOUGH!!!!
Unless the Founding Fathers were still around in 1956, they had nothing to do with the presence of God in our current government. Due to the flames of paranoia that were fanned by Joseph McCarthy in the 50's, a trio of laws were passed in 1956 in order to defend (and differentiate) us from the "Godless Communists" of Russia: "In God We Trust" was placed on all U.S. currency, "In God We Trust" replaced "E Pluribus Unum" (out of many, one) as the country's motto, and the words "under god" were inserted into the Pledge of Allegiance.

As a side note, the Presidential Oath of Office does not mention God nor does it require a Holy Bible for the Oath. That was more of a tradition carried on by individual Presidents, and is therefore excusable. The laws passed in 1956, however, no longer have an excuse and also have no place in our government. It is a "heritage and history" that has far shallower roots than some conservatives would have you believe.

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