Rights and Responsibilities of US Citizens

Subject: Law
Type: Informative Essay
Pages: 8
Word count: 2070
Topics: Human Rights, American Identity

The Fundamental Differences between the Rights and Responsibilities of the American Citizens

The US, like many other countries, accepted and incorporated the Universal bill of rights into their constitution, making it a priority chapter that governs the rights and liberties of the citizens, how government and the identified institutions uphold such freedoms. However, the very document categorically provides a guideline on the manner with which rights remain accorded and exercised with clear-cut limitations, and how institutions charged with the role of upholding these rights does so without colliding with the citizens. The principles guiding distinction between rights and their limits help in forming an opinion on how people rights and responsibilities are identified (Donnelly, 2013). The considerations concern the institutions of power and the citizenry liberties. 

The US Citizens’ Rights and Responsibilities Comparison

Citizens’ rights remain granted by the constitution with the aim of protecting their primary civil liberties. The rights represent the freedoms that any civilian enjoy by being a citizen of the country. Such privileges include freedoms of speech, religious consciousness, assembly, life, and petition in courts. Such rights grant the citizens the ability to coexist freely within the country without repatriation and infringement. Rights, therefore, are the guided by their limitation in expression. Rights, in essence, stay written as laws and granted to citizens by institutions affiliated with the justice system within the country (Donnelly, 2013). Apart from the rights earned by basis of being human and subscribing to the humanitarian bill of rights, there exist rights that governments through legislative authorities may choose to extend to their citizens either through contracts, patents, copyrights. Such right, therefore, call for agreed set of necessary consents by both the involved parties to extend cooperation. The rights, in essence, are a manifest with which obligations are guaranteed by a set of central law including the bill of rights and contracts. 

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The responsibilities accorded in the context of the US laws concerning the constitution and rights fall on the institutions obligated to oversee legal structures of justice and binding documents. As such, the duties as assigned by statute to either agreement partners or civil institutions of authority define the responsibility concept of constitutional laws (Donnelly, 2013). Responsibilities hence describe the ethical involvement through accountability of the institutions to guaranteeing political integrity and staying answerable to the public in the context of social behaviour. As a responsibility, American institutions are expected by law to support and defend the Constitution as the primary legal document. It remains in the interest of state institutions to have the constitutional and private sector organisations working to respect and uphold the rights of citizens (Donnelly, 2013). While it is the right of the citizens to enjoy many liberties as specified by the law, it is the responsibility of such institutions including the judiciary to protect the mentioned rights. On the part of the citizenry, it is their duty to take part in various state activities including through paying taxes, serving the country in various capacities including the military, judiciary, and any other public office. Citizens remain expected to be patriotic and defend their country.

The Importance of Rights and Responsibilities to the Democratic Process

Democracy as a process of the constitution ensures that civil rights and responsibilities are part of the governance structure (Pettit, 2016). As such, democracy is a collection of principles and ideas that champion for the institutionalisation of public freedoms. In governance, democracy, therefore, ensures the majority rights are granted the privilege while the minority views are considered. The civilians in the context of democracy have the final decision and have rights and responsibilities protected and granted within the constitutional framework (Pettit, 2016).  The rights and duties as part of any democratic process function to provide a guideline on how the legal rights of both the majority and the minority remain guaranteed in the democratic process. The system of democracy, therefore, is by far, dependent on the political decisions of both the majority and the minority. The success of the process accompanies a responsibility of the majority to guarantee the human and civil rights of the minority. The majority as such has an obligation within the democratic framework to uphold and protect the rights of both the majority and the minority on an equal measure without bias (Pettit, 2016). The doctrine of the principles in ensuring democratic balance pegs on the rights and responsibilities of both citizens and institutions.  

Citizens on their part have to exercise various rights related to their civic duties in the forms of taking part in elections as either voters or contestants in public leadership positions eligible to be elected as leaders. The right to participate in elections as granted to the citizens by the bill of rights is the primary foundation of democracy. Once elections are conducted, the prerogative responsibility of the constitutional opportunities to ensure an election carried in faith, the spirit of free expression of the public will, and a fair result reflects the aspirations of the masses (Pettit, 2016). The successes of democratic processes as such are a combination of rights and responsibilities carried and exercised in full knowledge of the compromise that both the minority and the majority have to accept for continued cooperation. 

Democratic societies provide a platform for both the citizens and institutions to thrive upholding both their rights and responsibilities. A fully functional democratic system represents the rights of the public in the manner with which they the public, the government, and the institutions are incorporated into the governance structures. The consideration of the private rights in setting up institutions in democratic societies such as the US sees the governance structures enjoy a unique element of separation of powers to ensure that their mandate as service providers to the citizens remain a priority (Pettit, 2016). The legislative representation in the Congress sees to it that the opinions and rights of both the majority and the minority are considered as an important part of the democratic process in such countries. Citizens on their part remain accorded the right of participating in free and fair elections that guarantee that at the end of it all, their preferred candidates ascend to leadership position based on their belief in their governance policies. 

Rights and Responsibilities And How Exercising Them Has Impacted People Historically

Right to Freedom of Speech and Press

Freedom of speech and press is an important right that gives the US citizens the liberty to express themselves freely without oppression. Americans have the right to express their minds and opinion without any fear. Freedom of speech has certain limits. However much the law allows one to speak and share his ideologies, the speeches should not threaten the security of the nation. People need only to express issues that promote national unity (U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, 2017). Limits of free speech also occur when it threatens the justices that the court has agreed on. When the court has issued a justice for a particular case, one should not go against that decision. Therefore, freedom of speech is only applicable when airing legit grievances without breaking the law or inconveniencing the welfare of others. Freedom of speech is also similar to free press. The media has the freedom to report anything that is of national interest. Both journalists and newscaster have the right to air what they have discovered so that the public can get to know or understand what is happening in the country. However, freedom of the press is withdrawn if in case the message or news undermines national security. The press is a significant pillar of the society hence they must only deliver information that promotes national unity.  

Historically, exercising the right of free press and speech has had a massive impact on the people. It has massively benefited Americans for years as they can freely share their ideologies and grievances without any fear. Free press and speech played a vital role in promoting American Revolution and development. Newspapers assisted in spreading critical information concerning the struggle for independence. The people could air their demands and fight back without fear, and that enabled the country to rise. The courts have often protected journalists who are determined to provide essential information to the public. However, the courts have also imprisoned journalists or people who have associated with gangsters or terror groups such as the Al-Qaida. Therefore, the freedom of speech and press has mainly helped the people in agitating and fighting for rightful things. 

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Right to Vote in an Election

All the US citizens have the sole right to vote any individual of their choice to the public offices. Voting is a democratic right of every American. This is the most important right that the constitution grants it citizens. Individuals that do not vote during elections are violating their essential right. Failure to vote allows evil leaders to be in power. Citizens need to vote in various elections including local, state, and federal elections. The voting right enables the people to vote their leaders and remove the bad people who are in power. It is an important liberty in the US, and it surpasses most rights and freedoms. Any free, democratic, and transparent society bases on voting. All Americans irrespective of race or gender has the right to vote. An individual who has reached the voting age has the right to vote during an election. 

Exercising voting rights has tremendously affected people historically. Without voting, US could still be an undemocratic nation. It is the right to vote that has facilitated the overall growth and development of the US economy. For years, the US has been under suppressive regimes, which thwarted the success of the people. Cases of racial discrimination and sufferings were often high. Therefore, the right to vote enabled the people to elect good people who were pro-development. For instance, the election of Bill Clinton to power created a massive a growth of the US economy. The living standards of the people rose, and they could get quality services in all the government or public entities. Besides, the voting of President Obama improved the healthcare sector through Obamacare project that improved the health and wellbeing of the people. Therefore, right to vote is an essential liberty and it has determined the types of leaders in the US history. 

Responsibility to Obey and Respect the Local, State, and Federal Laws

Laws are the guiding principles or rules that govern the conduct of the people in the US. Without laws in a nation, then there can be numerous crimes and chaos. The law promotes order and peace in the free society. It is the obligation of every US citizen to respect both the local or national laws (U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, 2017). The US has instituted a body that ensures that people follow the laws appropriately without breaking. Americans must, at all times, abide by their law and their actions or activities should not violate the agreed rules. The police have the legal mandate to arrest any individual that does not respect or obey both the state and federal laws. When arrested, the individual goes to jail where he serves different duration depending on the court ruling. The court or authorities may also fine people who fail to fulfil or conform to this responsibility. The responsibility to obey and respect the law has historically affected or impacted the Americans. The US law prohibits people from committing crimes or felonies like murder, robbery, drug trafficking, among others. In the past individuals who have committed such crimes, were incarcerated for long jail terms. Importantly, this responsibility has promoted sanity in the US over the years as the number of offences has reduced. 

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Responsibility to be an Active Member of Your Community

Every American has the full responsibility to participate in the essential activities in the community. In the US, the people need to take part in the local activities as a sign of representative democracy. Americans need to volunteer in various activities including the charity ones. For instance, building homes and contributing funds to the needy people in the local area is important. Besides, the people can promote wellbeing and growth of the community by joining associations and attending public meetings. In the past, Americans used to gather in local meetings to discuss fundamental factors affecting them, and that promoted the growth and development of the community and the country at large. Therefore, participating in the communal functions is a vital responsibility of any American.

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  1. Donnelly, J. (2013). Universal human rights in theory and practice. Cornell University Press.
  2. Pettit, P. (2016). Three Mistakes About Democracy. In Philosophy and Political Engagement (pp. 187-199). Palgrave Macmillan UK.
  3. U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services. (2017). Fundamental Documents, Symbols, and Anthems of the United States. Print. 
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