Just recently, I was told by a highway official that they no longer place signs of that type on questionable curves and areas, due to the fact that the wording seems to place a cloud of liability on government bodies these days. What once used to be a service to help protect all citizens has now turned into a source for a few other citizens to use as a means to sue for their own failures, rather than to admit they may have been at fault for not heeding the warnings. Those individuals are arguing the point that if the government department knows the location is a hazard, they should fix it, and their signs are doing nothing but admitting the guilt in bright yellow signs. The sad part is there have been lawsuits won due to these types of arguments, I have been told.
I guess it is like “Wet Paint” signs. I doubt there are very few of us who have not checked an object where these signs have been placed to see if the paint is really wet. For some reason these days, we have developed a society of people that likes to blame the painter for getting their finger wet with paint even if the sign tells them it is wet. I was brought up to be responsible for your actions, even if the restaurant gets the coffee too hot. But, now it seems to be easier to put the blame on someone else when we may have messed up, and warning signs may someday simply turn into ordinary curve signs allowing the passerby to take their own chances.
The same is happening in the legislative circles as well. Each day there is a new law presented or old ones debated that pertain to a right or amendment from our constitution. The first amendment is always brought up in discussions of exercising religion, freedom of press, assembly and speech. As a part of the Bill of Rights, all of these are very important to all of us as Americans, but at times these can be taken out of context and accomplish the opposite of what the original writers of the Bill of Rights may have had in mind. Just like the highway sign putter-uppers, those famous writers of our rights put out their words of warning and purpose, but today some folks are trying to twist those same words to suit their causes.
Have you ever wondered just what the forefathers were really thinking those days as they wrote those hallowed words? Times were real tough as Jefferson penned our Constitution. Thoughts, I’m sure, were back on living under English rule and how a king could do whatever he wished to unloyal subjects in a distant colony. Our Bill of Rights did have somewhat of a pattern from the English Bill of Rights, but each amendment was all American and dealt with protecting a new country at that time and for future years. English kings, for centuries, had used the military tactic of disarming their subjects when they felt threatened and causing homes to be unprotected. I’m sure when the second amendment was written those lasting, visual-mind pictures of British soldiers entering colonial homes and removing their guns under force helped in drafting those words protecting the right of the people to keep and bear arms. They wanted to make sure an individual citizen had the right to protect their home and have self-defense as well within their abode. However, over the years we have gone beyond the home and added the family automobile, along with the local McDonald’s. You never know when and where you may run across a red coat.
In my opinion, add the amendment concerning property rights to the mix and Jefferson may not even recognize his own thoughts when it comes to all of the laws on today’s books dealing with the subjects he once authored. It would be interesting to be able to spend some time with those creators of our government and just hear what they had in mind for us to be governed under. I think we just may be surprised at how close we are on some things and yet so far on others. A lot has changed over 200 years, but hopefully the desire for individual freedoms has not. That desire will keep us on the road, but we may need some warning signs of dangerous curves ahead. Let’s not avoid them when they appear and try to put the blame on something else.
– Pettus L. Read is Director of Communications for the Tennessee Farm Bureau Federation. He may be contacted by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org