What’s A Right and What’s Right?

human-rights-posterLots of debate these days given the exceedingly high concentration of violence crime in America, committed by those who perhaps ought not to have had access to the tools to commit those crimes – but did.

The issue of rights in America is one that, even though we are the most “free” people in the world, still rages on. There are the smaller but still touchy issues of things like the right to use mind altering substances (some substances but not all) or purchase certain medications that can actually heal us without a prescription. You can’t smoke cigarettes indoors in most public places lest those who don’t smoke be put at risk for lung cancer.

Then there are other human rights like the right to get married if you are not heterosexual.  These are social issues that bear discussion and have an impact on how we live our day-to-day lives. The reasons for regulating these kinds of social behaviors is, in theory, to ensure society functions normally and effectively and that we are looking out for the greater good.

But then you get to the bigger issues of real life and death. We do not have the right to take our own lives. It’s illegal. If you try and fail, you end up with even more problems than the ones that probably put you in that head space to begin with. And don’t try to help somebody else leave this world early or you could go to jail for, essentially, attempted murder.

And then we get to issues like the right to bear arms (I know it’s been beaten to death, but just read a little bit more). We are allowed to own guns in theory to defend ourselves against those who would do us harm or to hunt animals for food or sport. We also have the right to purchase not just standard handguns but automatic weapons that are designed to kill people.

I suppose the question I am posing (more than actually making a point) is at what point should we concede on certain rights and take away others. What is the litmus test in civil society for how much we should regulate our choices? At what point do we need to own up to the fact that with widespread freedom comes a responsibility to govern certain behaviors that do more harm than good?

Perhaps there is a short list of questions we can ask ourselves when considering what should be a right and what’s right to put restrictions on: what we should be allowed to have access to and what we shouldn’t have access to. What would those questions be?  Should they be about values?  Should they be about safety?  Should they be about individual rights or the rights of those around us?

It’s a question egged on by the evolution of our culture.  Have our norms and mores appropriately shifted as society has evolved and gotten more complex, or are we stuck in the comfort of maladaptive ideals that don’t work for the world we live in.  As times change it is incumbent upon us all to think about how we need to change as humans in order for us to be able to sustain not just our existence, but an existence we can all learn and grow from.

 

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