Today, May 1st, is Law Day in the United States. Thus, it is an appropriate time for all of us to pause and consider the many privileges of living in a free society; privileges which we often take for granted, and responsibilities which we too often overlook.
Distracted by day-to-day concerns, we often lose sight of the fact that we routinely enjoy freedoms that are denied to most of the people in the world today.
While we enjoy freedom of the press, people in many nations have no choice but to read the propaganda in a single government-controlled newspaper.
While we enjoy freedom of speech, Russia and other countries have implemented sweeping restrictions on the Internet.
While we enjoy freedom of religion, people in fully one-third of the world’s nations face sadistic torture merely because of their religious beliefs.
And the list goes on; virtually every liberty that we Americans enjoy is forcefully and often brutally denied to far too many people in far too many places, while we complacently take our rights for granted and often fail to appreciate the extraordinary blessings of living in the greatest nation on earth.
Much more important than the need to be grateful, however, is the need to reaffirm our commitment to fulfill the important obligations that we all have as citizens in a free society.
We must keep informed on public issues, obey the law, support law enforcement agencies, vote in elections and respect the rights of others. These fundamental precepts of citizen involvement are deceptively simple, and yet they are essential to the preservation of our democracy.
Merely having laws on the books is not enough. We must support our existing laws and we must participate in the American political process to assure that our new laws are fair and enlightened laws which effectively preserve our democracy, free enterprise and individual rights.
Foremost among the laws we must support is a great historical document which is the oldest of its kind in the world – the United States Constitution.
For over 225 years, our Constitution has prevailed as the supreme law of the land, providing a system of checks and balances that enforce the will of the people and protect our free speech, free press, freedom of religion, right to due process, right to trial by jury, right to equal protection under the laws and many other precious rights and liberties.
In a very real sense, however the Constitution and all of the other laws in our country are only as powerful as we choose to make them. Although we sometimes speak of living under a “government of laws and not of men,” it is an undeniable fact that all laws are merely words on paper until we, as responsible citizens, collectively support them, obey them and defend them.
Only then are these otherwise lifeless words transformed into the vital documents that provide the foundations of our freedom.
David E.S. Marvin is an attorney at Fraser Trebilcock, and past Chair of the Energy, Utilities, and Telecommunications Law Department. To contact Dave, email him at email@example.com or call 517.377.0825.