Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Bill of Rights: When I first heard about the Bill of Rights...

Our portal “American Clubs – Ukraine” continues publishing the essays, submitted to the Second Annual Student Essay Competition in support of Democracy in Ukraine, on the topic “Bill of Rights in the US: Democracy Lessons for Ukraine”.

When I first heard about the Bill of Rights I thought that it is one of the few very important documents. It is old and everybody extols it. However, further consideration revealed that this document has the most prominent importance not only to the Unites States of America but for every democratic country.

It is well known that it was ratified as a result of mistrust. The Anti-Federalists were skeptic about the new Constitution and demanded the guaranteed protection of individual rights. The collective purpose and the aspiration for a durable government turned into a brilliant idea. Ten amendments to the Constitution were ratified and became known as the Bill of Rights later in 1791.

The consequences of the ratification are what made these ten amendments so amazing. We should keep in mind, that they were drafted hundreds of years ago. People’s lifestyle and knowledge were different, especially their perception of the civic society. Although fear for creating a monarchy alike to Great Britain and granting all the power to the central government were first steps in developing the idea of a democratic society with side benefits primary to the people.

The Bill of Rights consists of the basic human rights of life, freedom, possessions, voice etc. The idea of having a transparent government is based on a system of checks and balances. The most valued first amendment is people’s check on the government in a way of being a part of democracy. “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.” It empowers people to participate in all of the democratic processes thus balancing and checking the power of their leaders.

I think that it is one of the things that Ukrainian government should keep in mind. The Ukrainian Constitution does guarantee its citizens freedom of religion, speech, right to assemble for peaceful purposes etc. However, reality is far from the law. We did take the American system of government as an example while forming ours. To my mind that should have had different consequences from what we have now. There is a very significant excuse though. Ukraine is a young state and hasn’t gone through the events that could influence the change. The country is in a state of going through these changes right now. That is why I think that it is important to think about the cause of a problem first in order to correct it. History repeats itself. This is why we have so many history classes at school. People should understand the causes of decay and the importance of preventing it in their own country.

Another reason why the Bill of Rights is popular with people is because it gives a feeling of security. When people trust their government it results in a vigorous engagement of every citizen in the democracy (e.g. elections). Honesty between the people and the government certainly leads to country’s prosperity in numerous aspects. The Bill of Rights is a vivid example of the way to restore trust.

Every individual is capable of making a difference. There are certain universal principals that should be considered by the policy makers. Democracy is not just a word and the Bill of Rights is not just an old and very important document. If every person believed in the core principles of both and tried to implement them it would make a difference.

Author: Sologor Anna, City Gimnasium № 1, Cherkassу

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Competition is held by the Center for Political Studies (Donetsk, Ukraine), jointly with the portal “American Clubs – Ukraine”, and the Kyiv Alumni Resource Center (ARC). General partner of the competition: American Civil Liberties Union of Hawaii (Honolulu, USA). Partners of the competition: Institute of Professional Lobbying and Advocacy (IPLA) and Donetsk Regional Association of International Researchers (DAIR). More detailed information about the competition is available here.