Ed Vasicek

Every nation has its ethnic jokes directed toward it, and America is no exception. Here are some signs that you are in America: (1) There are handicap parking places in front of a skating rink. (2) Sick people must walk to the back of the pharmacy to pick up prescriptions, while healthy people can buy cigarettes in the front. (3) Banks leave both vault doors open, but pens are chained to the counters. (4) People use voice mail to screen calls and call waiting to catch every call they might miss. (5) Drive-up ATM machines feature Braille lettering.

The rest of the world jokes about us just as we joke about them! They think of us spoiled, complaining and mock us for being monolingual (people in most nations speak multiple languages — many even speak English). As for me, I love being an American; I don’t mind the tease.

I was born in the good old USA, and so were my parents. Although I have never served in the military, my father served in the U.S. Army at the end of World War II. I am proud to be an American.

One of the many things that makes our nation great is our documents. The Declaration of Independence tells us we are endowed with rights given us by the Creator. The U.S. Constitution defines how we are governed, and its first amendments (the Bill of Rights) further describe our God-given rights.

But we have a problem: Many of us are ignorant of our Constitution’s most basic tenets.

There are a lot better reads than the Constitution, I will grant you that. Almost all of us were taught the basics of the Constitution in grade school. We tend to remember what we deem important. And my suspicion is a general understanding of the Constitution is not one of those things.

The Annenberg Public Policy Center is part of the University of Pennsylvania. It conducted a survey of more than 1,000 adults and discovered, that, unprompted, 37 percent of Americans could not list ANY of the rights guaranteed under the First Amendment.

The first 10 amendments to the Constitution are referred to as the Bill of Rights. The first of these reads: “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.”

Forty-eight percent were able to list freedom of speech, 15 percent listed freedom of religion, 14 percent freedom of the press, 10 percent the right to assembly, and 3 percent the right to petition. Now it doesn’t surprise me most Americans could not name them all (I failed with that last one), but it does trouble me 37 percent could not name any.

Get this: Just 26 percent were able to name the three branches of government! On the positive side, most people could name one or two of them — 33 percent could not name any of them. Still, many Americans do not understand how our government works.

Incidentally, the same study stated 53 percent of Americans “incorrectly” believe immigrants who are here illegally do not have any rights under the U.S. Constitution. The Constitution nowhere states such a thing, unlike the aforementioned rights. Shame on Annenberg for sneaking this agenda-driven orange into the apple bin.

In my opinion, we should recognize illegal aliens have certain rights because the Declaration of Independence asserts all people have been endowed with certain rights by the Creator. But amendment, not imaginative “discovery,” is the Constitution’s provision to adjust itself.

The average American’s ignorance about how our nation works is appalling. Some people rant and rave about the crooks in Washington who are out of touch with the people. It could very well be, however, the people are out of touch with even how Washington is supposed to work. And it is not because they have not been taught, but because it doesn’t interest them.

Ed Vasicek is pastor of Highland Park Church and a weekly contributor to the Kokomo Tribune. Contact him at edvasicek@gmail.com

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