A year abroad offers contrasts

By From page A10 | September 19, 2013

By Gabriel Bick

Have you ever thought about how the U.S. Constitution affects your life? Many people never think about how the Constitution affects their lives. Before last year, I had never thought about how it affected my life, either.

However, moving to a new country last year for a year made me think about how the Constitution affects my life. Before last year, there were rights I took for granted, as well as expectations of equal treatment, and also a basic expectation of fairness and decency. My last year in Southeast Asia has made me think about how the Constitution affects my life.

There were many rights that I used to take for granted that did not apply in Southeast Asia. For example, one part of the First Amendment, free speech: I have always expected to be able to say whatever I wanted to. However, the country that I lived in last year had only limited free speech. This makes me glad to live in the United States, where free speech is a given due to our Constitution.

Another right that I was always assured of was free exercise of religion. Although I have never been religious, I placed confidence in the fact that I could practice any religion I wanted to. Last year, I learned that native people born in the country where I was living had to adhere to a certain religion. Additionally, those native people could be persecuted under an additional set of laws compared to the rest of the population.

Another difference between the two countries was different treatment of people. In the United States, equal treatment is expected. On the other hand, the country that I lived in last year had better treatment for the native people than for other races, such as Indians or Chinese. This includes better schooling, discounts on property and qualification for scholarships, government positions and ownership of businesses. This shocked me, as in the United States there would never be a race formally given an advantage over another race.

Another difference between the two countries was levels of corruption. While in the United States, corruption is low, there is a much higher rate of corruption in the country that I lived in last year. For example, the majority of police will take bribes, or “coffee money.” This stems from a weak government, while a strong and stable government based on the Constitution of the United States is why there is less corruption here.

My past year living in a country within Southeast Asia has made me think about how the Constitution affects my life. It gives me more freedoms, better rights and equal treatment. I am grateful for how the founding fathers shaped our Constitution and thus, our nation.

— Gabriel Bick of Davis, age 14, is the winner of the junior high division of the Davis Constitution Day essay contest.

Special to The Enterprise

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