The right to pursue happiness


During all of my travels over the past month, I’ve listened to a lot of talk radio.

One thing that was said by someone on the station really struck me. It was a simple statement they made, but it was profound. We are not guaranteed happiness we are guaranteed the pursuit of happiness and the ability to go out and find happiness for ourselves.

But how does this happen? Why did Thomas Jefferson include this statement in our founding documents? First, you need to look at the word “happiness” and how it applies. 

I believe the basis for this statement provides no one person may rule over another, we are free to choose and we have the right to seek our own destiny. I believe Jefferson was referring to a much deeper aspect of happiness than what is deemed today through items that bring pleasure.

In my reading, I believe Jefferson was referring to at a minimum: food, health, and safety. Obviously, the third aspect is my focus and I believe a growing focus of the general public. The first American Sheriff was appointed in Virginia in 1634. While the job has changed since then, the three core original duties remain the same: serving the direction of the court, maintaining a jail and protecting citizens. 

All three of the original duties are directly attributed to guaranteeing happiness. The upheaval in the past year plus has certainly impacted the ability of law enforcement to adequately provide the basic services but that appears to be changing again. 

Data from the previous year has indicated a significant increase in not only violent crime but crime in general. A lack of holding people accountable can be seen in our traffic arrests with a significant increase in driving under the influence crashes, possession of drugs, speeding in excess of 30 miles per hour over the limit and in general interaction with those offenders.

While I am not sure how this trend started, it has culminated in defunding the police and enhancing criminal’s rights, but I think that focus is changing as well. We saw that during the most recent election “defund the police” initiatives were voted down across the country and the rights for law-abiding citizens took priority. 

This rhetoric is wearing thin on the vast majority of citizens. Our most basic right is the pursuit of happiness and the Sheriffs of this nation have provided this protection for nearly 400 years. We will keep fighting for you but you need to make your voice heard to preserve these long-established freedoms.  

Brian VanVickle is the Sheriff of Ogle County.

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