By Dr. Bryan Van Gorp
Our country is more divided than any time since 1968 when progressive leaders like Robert Kennedy and Martin Luther King Jr. were assassinated and there were riots in the streets. Citizens are rarely uniformly conservative or progressive on all issues. People may be fiscally conservative and socially progressive. They may be conservative on environmental issues, favor conserving resources, but progressive on reproductive rights.
One of the ways people differ is on how they define liberty, freedom or rights.
– Do we have the freedom to exploit the environment for personal gain or should we have the freedom to access clean air and water?
– Do employers have the right to hire people at low wages that force tax payers to subsidize the workers or do people working full-time have the right to make a living?
– Are employers, based on their religious beliefs, at liberty to define what healthcare workers can access or should every family have the liberty to choose the healthcare they need?
– Do people have the right to own a military weapon or do children have the right to increased school safety and to stay alive?
– Should every citizen have the right to vote or should that right depend on demographics or past mistakes?
– Should the work place be a place where the “golden rule” is, “He who has the gold has the right to make the rules?” Should workers have the right to organize and bargain? Should the work place be so democratic that workers have a say in the decisions that impact their lives?
– Is liberty defined as access to cheap products or access to a beautiful healthy, environment?
– Should a few people have the liberty to accumulate another billion dollars or should all people have the liberty to have their basic needs met even if the larger community must help those who cannot help themselves?
– Should one have the freedom to mock handicapped people and grab genitals or does everyone have the freedom to control their own body and not be publicly humiliated?
– Do those with religious beliefs have the right to impose the dictates of that religion on others or do we have the right to live under laws created by the larger conglomerate society or the right to live free of religion altogether?
– Are businesses at liberty to operate without regulations that might impinge on profits or do people have the liberty to live free of toxins, pollutants, and the right to safe food and drugs?
– Should people have the right to have as many children as they want or do children have the right to a sustainable future created by living within the constraints of our ecosystem?
– Is liberty the right to subjugate others or is it being able to compete on a level playing field or is it the freedom of knowing we have a safety net.
– Should ICE have the freedom to deport people brought here as children, who have only known the USA as home or should those people, now adults with children that are citizens have the freedom to stay with their families? What if they are veterans?
We must acknowledge that no one’s rights are absolute. Each person’s behavior affects others. A person can say, “It is my land and I can do what I want with it,” but what if that person’s actions decrease their neighbor’s quality of life or property value? Often a person exercising their rights infringes on another person’s rights. One person’s freedom to wave their arms ends at another person’s nose.
Everyone likes to focus on their own rights but with each right comes a corresponding responsibility. The right to free speech comes with the responsibility to speak truthfully. The right to make decisions that impact others, carries the responsibility of caring for and protecting those others. To whom much has been given, much is expected.