Do worry, even if you have done nothing wrong

Published 5:32 am Sunday, July 5, 2009

By Staff
In today’s Sound Off column, there is this reader comment: “Don’t worry about the Coast Guard and Wildlife if you are not breaking the law.”
Nothing could be less apt the day after the Fourth of July.
For its national celebration, our country has not chosen the anniversary of a military sacrifice, and we didn’t chose the birthday of a great leader. We have separate days devoted to those purposes: Veterans Day (those who have served), Memorial Day (those who have died) and Presidents Day (those who have led).
For our national day, we chose the anniversary of a simple statement, a list of our core values. We didn’t even necessarily peg the anniversary of the day our founding fathers signed the document. Instead, we mark the date they put at the top of the Declaration of Independence.
The Declaration of Independence is perhaps the finest testament ever to the principle that citizens must hold their government in check.
Our favorite section reads: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. —That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, —That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, …”
What that last part says, in plain English, is that government makes sure people don’t infringe each others’ rights, and people make sure government doesn’t infringe anyone’s rights.
It’s our most fundamental check in a massive system of checks and balances.
So the caller to Sound Off is wrong. Everyone should always worry about every branch of government. Not in a rabid, hateful way, but in an open, civilized way. We should ask to know what all of our government officials are doing, and why. When we look at what the law enforcement agencies were doing in the Pamlico River near downtown Washington, we may discover that they were doing a public service. We have very professional agencies in this region.
But we should ask. Each and every time. And we should never feel ashamed or be berated. It’s the most American thing to do, to ask what government is up to.