You decide to show up and petition your government leader, say George W. Bush, and
--you cannot get in without being prescreened and determined to be a supporter of the president, signing a loyalty oath, and having received a ticket;
--you have a ticket and decide to attend to hear the president speak, but you drive your car with the democratic bumper sticker, and you are stopped and ejected from the event;
--you decide to appear and hold your sign which says impeach Bush,
so you are ushered to a metal caged area several blocks away, labelled a "free speech zone", out of sight and voice range, and placed under video surveillance;
--you decide to show up early to the site where Bush will speak to scout out a good location to protest, and you accidentally step inside an area the secret service has deemed a security zone, and you are arrested and charged with a felony under the Patriot Act, even though no one you wish to protest is even on the premises;
So your right to petition your government and engage in constitutionally protected protest is effectively suppressed.
YOu decide to watch the press use their 1st Amend right to ask the president questions, and get answers to those questions:
--Bush does not do unrehearsed press conferences;
--Bush does not answer questions he does not know about and filter in advance;
--Bush does not allow access to press members who do not report favorably about him;
--Bush refuses to allow Mike Wallace to interview him, or even speak to him;
So since you cannot effectively petition your government, and the press cannot effectively ask Bush questions, you decide to organize with others who are concerned like you:
--your telephone conversations are secretly listened to by NSA and other government agents without a warrant;
--your mail is opened by homeland security and read before being taped shut, stamped opened by the government, and delivered to you;
--your organization is infiltrated by government undercover spies, most recently if you were vegetarian, a librarian, or a peace activist associated with the Quaker religion.
--you decide to use the internet to discuss your interests and concerns, and your web surfing and emails are turned over by your isp to the government;
So you decide to use your right to vote to express your will in the democracy you call home:
--you are turned away from voting because you are wrongly identified as a felon in Florida;
--you are turned away from voting in Georgia because you do not have a picture ID card;
--your voting precinct has only 2 voting machines for thousands of precinct voters, which takes hours of standing in line to use, and which machines break down several times during the day;
--you use a touch screen voting machine which continuously registers your vote for Bush even though you are trying to vote for Kerry, and you cannot get a paper receipt showing how your vote was counted;
--you are given a provisional ballot to use and later the provisional ballot is not counted;
So how do you like the status of your constitutional rights so far?
If you said just fine, you are just the kind of citizen our present Administration is looking for.
If you said not at all, you might be still living in the past when the government existed to serve the people and we all had constitutional rights preserved to us.
It is good to take a status check every now then to realize just how many of our constitutional rights have been whittled away.