If you’ve been awake in the U.S. at any time over the last six months, you’ll be at least passingly familiar with the recent Hobby Lobby case that went to the Supreme Court. Leaving aside issues of the debates over birth control or Corporate Personhood (can a corporation–a business–have a religion?), one of the driving forces in the issue was one of rights.
Does the corporation’s religious freedom (or, more accurately, that of its owners) trump the rights of its employees to make personal healthcare decisions? A similar argument is often seen in gun rights issues: does the right to bear arms supercede the regulation of those weapons (to say nothing of the right of everyone else to not get shot)?
One thing I’ve not seen in any of these discussions is a mention of the corresponding duties that accompany the rights. They’re not written down explicitly in the Constitution, to be certain. But they’re there. (The military certainly writes them down–very seldom is the word “rights” seen without closely being followed by “and responsibilities”.)
I guess what I’m trying to get at is that yes, you have rights. But there’s a price to be paid for those rights–things that society expects. For the most part, they’re pretty easily understood, and we (generally) all agree on them. Wearing clothes in public. Obeying traffic laws, to the extent that they’re obeyed. Don’t just randomly go out and beat up complete strangers on the streets.
Problem being, there are some that I think are common sense, but a large group of folks–and, surprise, they tend to cluster on the rightward end of the political spectrum–think are nonsense. A big one: paying taxes. (As Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr., put it, “I like to pay taxes–with them, I buy civilization.”) If you don’t want to pay taxes, fine–but you don’t get to use the roads. Or rely on the police, or fire department. Or the emergency room (unless you can pay, cash, out of pocket). I’m inclined to bar them from anything government-subsidized, which is a large list these days.
To veer off into “rant mode,” I’ve got to wonder what people are thinking sometimes. I saw a car a couple of weeks back with a Virginia “Don’t Tread On Me” license plate (after the Gadsden flag). It was on a Volkswagen. Talk about your cognitive dissonance… Almost as bad as the Gadsden stickers I’ve seen on GM and Chrysler SUV’s. (Without a hefty government “loan,” which was loudly decried by the Right, and which was subsequently paid back with interest, neither company would be around now…)
To get back to topic, yes, you have your rights (as does everyone else). But you do have duties that go along with them. The next time you hear someone talk about their rights (or, heavens forbid, you do so yourself), stop and ask what responsibilities you have along with them…
I’d like to return to this one in a few weeks, and actually discuss it–feedback and all. What say you?