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Andy Pattantyus: Preserving liberty is the citizen's obligation

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Posted: September 3, 2009 6:17 p.m.
Updated: September 4, 2009 4:55 a.m.
Webster's dictionary defines liberty, our country's most precious asset, as "the quality or state of being free, freedom from arbitrary or despotic control."

History teaches that gaining liberty is a hard-fought, long process, while losing it can happen almost overnight.

We still have liberty here in the U.S.A. We want to keep it, but we take it for granted.

How is liberty preserved? Before we can answer that, we must understand how liberty can be lost.

The loss of liberty is an incremental process, buried, for example, in thousands of pages of legislation.

In business, the most certain way to assure that a contract is not read is to make it longer than 50 pages. One can buy a house with a 20-page contract.

Why is recent proposed legislation more than 1,000 pages long? Because most of our elected representatives don't want anyone to read it!

Which of us average hardworking citizens has the time to read 1,000 pages? Very few. Everybody knows it.

Thus, you can be assured that buried inside those 1,000 pages are the seemingly innocuous sentences that constitute the incremental erosion of your liberties, or the outright whoppers that kill liberty right on the spot.

Somebody has to actually sit down and carefully read the 1,000 pages to find these threats.

In the U.S.A., voting citizens confer governing power upon their elected representatives, who are supposed to represent us.

Reasonably, we expect them to read the 1,000 pages before debating the bill and voting on it. We expect them to negotiate for the best solutions while preserving our liberties.

We expect them to know the Constitution and the Bill of Rights, because we are only generally aware of the substance of these documents.

However, we the citizens are not off the hook yet.

The greatest threat to liberty is laziness.

The citizens' job, therefore, is to be vigilant - "to stay alertly watchful to avoid danger" - because there is nobody else to do it for us.

What are we watching for? Threats to our Constitution and our liberties.

We are also watching to see if our elected representatives are actually representing us. They behave differently if they know they are being watched, and we citizens have to let them know that.

We are watching by writing letters to them, to the editor of our local paper, by blogging, by going to town hall meetings. Sometimes we must protest and demonstrate.

Thus, our liberty is essentially founded on the Freedom of Speech (a constitutional right) as exercised by responsible citizens.

Citizens have many additional obligations to protect the U.S.A. The booklet "The Guide to Naturalization," document M-476 published by the Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS), outlines what the country expects of her newest citizens before they take this oath of allegiance, from Page 28:

"I hereby declare, on oath, that I absolutely and entirely renounce and abjure all allegiance and fidelity to any foreign prince, potentate, state, or sovereignty, of whom or which I have heretofore been a subject or citizen; that I will support and defend the Constitution and laws of the United States of America against all enemies, foreign and domestic ... so help me God."

Do we expect anything less of any citizen born into U.S. citizenship? I think not.

Each citizen has several additional primary responsibilities, as outlined on Page 3 of the booklet:

"U.S. citizens have many responsibilities other than the ones mentioned in the Oath. Citizens have a responsibility to participate in the political process by registering and voting in elections ... Tolerance for differences is also a responsibility of citizenship."

I believe the responsibilities of good citizenship go even further. We must stay aware of the current issues and vigorously debate policies and pending legislation with each other.

Citizenship is the duty of citizens and is not a partisan issue. It takes effort.

We all live in this great country, and we must all work to preserve that which makes it truly American: liberty. How many people actually realize their obligations as a citizen?

Full disclosure. I was born in the United Kingdom and became a naturalized U.S. citizen at age 21.

Andy Pattantyus lives and works in Santa Clarita and is the President of Strategic Modularity Inc. and the President of SignJammer Corp. His column reflects his own views and not necessarily those of of The Signal.


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