Rights come with responsibility

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

As we get closer to Thanksgiving, most of us begin thinking about the blessings in our lives and those things that we are most thankful for. Last Friday, I had the privilege of attending Cassville High School's annual Veterans Day assembly, which gives students the opportunity to show local veterans their appreciation. Students offer musical performances and read essays that talk about the sacrifices that have been made by service men and women to secure our freedoms. A pair of this year's essays spoke about liberty, which is defined as a "state of being free within society from oppressive restrictions imposed by authority on one's way of life, behavior or political views."

The Bill of Rights was intended to secure basic civil liberties, including: the right to bear arms; the prohibition of the forced quartering of soldiers out of war time; the prohibition of unreasonable searches and seizures; the right to due process; the right to a fair and speedy public trial by jury; and the prohibition of excessive fines and bail and cruel and unusual punishment. The very first amendment in the Bill of Rights protects our freedom of religion, speech and the press and the right to assemble and petition government.

Over the last few months, rights protected by the first amendment in the United States Constitution have been exercised by many Cassville residents. While the city council has considered a water and sewer rate increase, Cassville citizens have had the opportunity to gather for meetings, address the council and express their thoughts and feelings in the form of letters in our newspaper. Whether you agree or disagree with the proposed rate increase, you have to admit that watching the process has been interesting and informative. The process has also forced some local residents who never attend council meetings or follow city business to take notice of what is happening in the community.

I am a Cassville resident, and I have my own opinion on the water and sewer rate increases. I believe an increase is needed, but that the council and city administration could have done a better job of presenting the information and considering feedback from local citizens. This editorial is not intended to criticize the city though. Instead, I am interested in pointing out that the veterans in our community have fought, sacrificed and in some cases perished to ensure that we have the liberties that have been exercised over the last few months.

When I think of those veterans and what they have given to our country and community, I believe these men and women would hope that we would use our liberties to share our opinions constructively. I do not believe that they intended to protect our right to tear down those whose opinions differ from our own or be hurtful toward our neighbors and fellow community members. I also do not believe that they intended for any of us to fear the consequences of sharing our thoughts or ideas.

It is my sincere hope that as we approach the holiday season and reflect on what we are thankful for that each of us will take time to think about the rights and freedoms that have been protected by United States veterans. As we give thanks for our many blessings, I hope that we will also take time to think about the responsibilities that come with our rights and the many ways we can honor those who have given so much for us by working to be a blessing to others.

Lindsay Reed