Tuesday, December 18, 2012

It's My Constitutional Right to Demand We Act Responsibly!

After the Newtown massacre, everybody is talking about rights: The right to guns, free speech, religion, life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

I'm stepping back and looking at the big picture. There is one overarching symptom that is making life harder in this nation. Not only in the context of Newtown, but in everything.

Many of us have stopped acknowledging that with our rights come responsibilities.   We have a ton of rights, most of them enshrined in the Constitution. We're lucky, compared to the repressed lives of people in so many nations, where so many governments force their people to endure a life without the freedom we have.

Implicit in the Constitution, though, is the rights we enjoy come with personal responsibility. I think that's why the Founding Fathers generally wanted government out of the way: They trusted us to balance our personal freedoms with everybody else's.

Has that trust broken down?  Maybe it has.  

Yes, we have the right to free speech, to say anything we want. But don't we have the responsibility to at least not be one of those horrible Internet trolls who say things that are beyond dreadful, wishing innocent disaster victims suffer more or die, because said trolls get their jollies from it? Or to call in threats to churches in Newtown,  also because it's fun?

It's not all about you. So shut the F**k up.

We have the right to pursue our religious beliefs as we see fit. But our religious rights don't give us the authority to impinge on how others worship.  I don't want to hear any more from some religious nutcases that the fact I don't pray the way they do, I'm taking away their "rights."

The way you worship works for you. You don't have the "right" to tell me or anybody else how to pray. You worship how you want in your church, and I'll do the same in mine. If we disagree, we'll just leave each other alone. It's not that hard.

The Second Amendment says we have the right to own guns. Many of us own guns for hunting, personal protection, target practicing, whatever. Great! But a few people who own guns seem to think they have the "right" to handle their weapons any way they want. Even if it endangers the rest of us. Don't we all have the right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness?  Not to mention the right not to get shot by some stupid yahoo?

Speaking of the right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, your right to such pursuits doesn't mean you can run roughshod over the rest of us. If money makes you happy, you have the right to earn as much as you can, as long as you have the responsibility to not screw the rest of us over in the process.

You have the right to the liberty of doing whatever you want on your own property, as long as you are responsible enough that you don't trash, ruin or destroy the value of the rest of our properties in the process .

I'm not looking for the government, some corporation or some other refereeing overlord to keep us all on the straight and narrow. My call for responsibility might fall on deaf ears, but I figure we all have to start somewhere.

After all, it's both our right and responsibility to do so.

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