In this country our discussions on political philosophy often come down to the subject of rights. Statements referring to rights of speech and expression dominate the periods of protest.
Abortion rights direct many feminist forums while marriage rights are debated in pro-gay circles. Outrages against animal rights are bemoaned by People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals and rights for trees are fervently defended by environmental terrorist groups like Earth Liberation Front.
History also draws our attention to the abolitionist, women’s suffrage and civil rights movements and the legislation that was passed regarding them.
It seems that everywhere you turn everyone is claiming that they have rights and the people for whom they are speaking are entitled to these rights.
This is all well and good but I seriously doubt many people – even in the academic world – actually could define what rights are or from where they come.
I think most people could come to an understanding that rights are a good idea and we should have them. That, however, does not get us very far.
So please ponder for a moment why we as college students, as males and females, Caucasians and non-Caucasians, Americans and residents of other countries, and human beings truly have rights.
Two hundred and twenty-eight years ago our founding fathers signed their names to the Declaration of Independence, our nation’s founding document, in which they laid down our liberties and rights as unalienable.
The modern Internet site dictionary.com, however defines a right as “Something that is due to a person or governmental body by law, tradition or nature.” This definition, although grammatically acceptable, is woefully and thoroughly inadequate.
First, although it is true that our rights are delineated and protected by law, those laws can always be revoked. Someday the Bill of Rights could become “antiquated” or “not politically correct” and the president with both houses of Congress and the votes of three-fourths of the state legislatures could repeal them.
Sound outrageous? It happened not more than a century ago where Jews in Germany enjoyed voting and property rights until they were taken away by Hitler with more or less full support from the German people.
It is happening now in Canada.Legal action can be taken against anyone who speaks against homosexuality. Their rationale? Such speech violates national hate-crimes legislation!
These are the first steps in the absorption of rights for the sake of political correctness. What good are rights if they are only guaranteed by the goodwill of politicians?!
Second, tradition should never dictate a person’s rights. If this portion of the definition were true then African-Americans, Asians, Hispanics, women and poor white men would not be able to vote or hold office.
Moreover, if tradition dictates rights then we would have never gotten beyond the hunter-gatherer method of government in which the strongest rules.
Thirdly, I have found that common origin or nature is often given to explain why humans have and should have rights. I have heard the explanation, “We’re all equal, made from the same stuff.”
Really? Are we all really equal in every way? I would say no. Some of us are faster, stronger, smarter, more ruthless and more conniving.
Evolutionary theories reveal that the types best suited for their environment survive while others are eliminated.
Nature itself cannot provide rights. Lions do not stop to ponder over the antelope’s rights before killing it. It is kill or be killed! Why should weaker animals have rights or even exist?
Instead of creating a system in which all of the creatures live in harmony we see that human life influenced by nature becomes as Thomas Hobbs put it, “nasty, brutish and short.”
It would seem that the idea of having rights is an illusion. Yet, our founding fathers have left us something more. “We hold these Truths to be self-evident that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights …”
Yes that’s right folks, our founding document speaks of God as the source of our rights. Like it or not this country is founded on the TRUTH that men are created equally and that rights come from He who created us.
Humans have no worth, no value and no rights aside from God. Human rights do not stem from politicians, customs or from nature itself. Instead they are birthed from a higher power who I believe looked down on his creation (us) and saw that it was good.
But, of course, you could say it’s all a lie. In that case your rights are a lie too. You could say that the mention of God is merely a formality. Well then, your rights are a formality too.
Furthermore, if you are a person who is enraged by the words in this column please don’t take it out on me; your quarrel is with the Declaration of Independence.
Get a group together to ban the Declaration in schools or remove it from public places. Make sure it is never read in classrooms or lecture halls. Burn every copy you can find. If you are especially enraged then the original copy is being held in Washington, D.C.
Bring an angry mob armed to the teeth if you wish and tell the authorities that you are going to tear up the Declaration and every thing for which it stands.
Then you will have completed your task to ban the mention of that hated document. Let’s see how long your rights last.
Seriously friends, sarcasm aside, our country was founded on a belief in a higher power – whom you have the right to accept or deny. Still, always keep in mind from where that right comes.