I had a shock today... Someone asked me what the five freedoms guaranteed by the First Amendment were.
"That's easy!" I said with smug indignation. "How dare they ask me? Ask some half wit over there!" I thought.
"First congress is not to restrict the establishment of religion or its practice."
One finger went up
"Next there is freedom of speech."
"And then there is the freedom of the press."
"Of course, the freedom to peaceably assemble."
"Finally there is... Five freedoms you say??"
A smile formed on the lips of my inquisitor.
"Ummmm.... uhhhhhhhh... religion, speech, press, assembly...."
I shrugged. My shame overcame me. I knew that I would not get it.
"I guess I don't know the third..."
"The right to petition Government for a redress of Grievances!!!" My questioner triumphantly chortled.
"Great. You got me." I said. But now it was my turn. "What does it mean?" I asked.
"Who cares?" was the brilliant reply.
Who cares. I do. You should. It means that you can fight city hall, with out fear of reprisal from city hall. For instance, if the Government proposes to build a highway outside my house, I have a right to go to whatever Government agency is building the road and ask them to build it somewhere else, and not be thrown in jail because I did so.
The right to redress Government was unique in the 18th century. Sure it was part of the Magna Carta, and had roots in English Common Law, but was it applied in practice? No. The colonies breaking away from England was a prime example of the inability of the people to redress grievances.
It is common place today. It is unthinkable that a modern Government would throw people in jail for simply complaining. But it happened then... and it happens now. In China, North Korea, Cuba, Venezuela, and in many other countries people are imprisoned for simply walking up to a government agency and complaining. Think about that the next time you are challenging your property tax valuation.