Fight For Your Rights (Essay)

(WARNING: Minor political commentary ahead.)

“You’ve got your rights. Don’t mean its right, ethical or sane.” 
– MxPx (Slowly Going the Way of the Buffalo)

The issue of individual rights has been looming large in our collective human consciousness lately, and has to varying degrees throughout recorded history. As an offshoot of last weeks post, I’d like to take a closer look at this topic.

Alright. So without consulting a dictionary, I’ll just say my definition of a “right” is protection for someone with less power against someone with more. Look back in time: When people had less rights, their king/dictator/government was able to take their land, possessions, and even lives with little to no repercussion.

Now, at least in most of the first world, we don’t have to worry about that sort of tyranny. Sometimes, however, as is the case with police shooting unarmed people here in the US, there are still obvious rights abuses. We need more reform, we need to keep fighting.

Gender Equality is one that leaves me scratching my head. How did things get so lopsided in the first place? We are still paying women less than men for doing the same jobs. There is rape culture, sexual harassment, and numerous other abuses men perpetrate against women. Even chivalry (opening doors, paying for the first date, etc.) is condescending. Why not open doors for everyone, not just women? Do you believe their arms are incapable of doing it themselves? Wouldn’t it be nice if we just treated everyone with courtesy? I’ve been trying to listen to my wife and female friends about how our culture makes them feel, and it’s opened my eyes. The world looks so much different, and sometimes scary, from a woman’s eyes.

Race. It’s another biggie, one we’ve been struggling with for thousands of years. Now, with knowledge of DNA and genetics, how can people still think less of others because of skin color? Still, most of us have subconscious racial bias. Evolution has left us with baggage. That doesn’t mean we just get to say “Oh well.” We have to push ourselves to be as unbiased and rational as possible, despite our initial inclinations.

Sexual Orientation Equality is slowly happening, but there are still people and places within the first world that are stuck in the backwards thinking that says you have less rights just because of who you love.

Wealth vs. Poverty is unfortunate and suppresses the welfare of those in need. The middle class is shrinking. We have wealthy people, like Donald Trump, operating both inside and outside the law to avoid paying their fair share. I believe all people have a right to clean water, food, clothing, shelter, and health care. We, as a species, have reached a point where we can supply these things to those less fortunate. Why aren’t we doing it? Does the 1% really need billions and billions of dollars while almost half the world lives on less than $2.50 a day?

Gun Control. Another contentious issue, at least here in the US. Guns are a problem. I’m not going to go into it deeply, but is the right of an individual to own a gun worth tolerating mass shootings and the over 13,000 firearm deaths that occurred last year in the US? Sure, guns don’t kill people in the same way that hammers don’t drive nails. It’s a tool, and people use it. I get the need for personal protection, but if there wasn’t such easy and prevalent access to firearms, perhaps we wouldn’t need quite so much (or so lethal) ways to protect ourselves.

This leads me to my final statements: We, as humans, have to fight for our rights, both for ourselves and for those less able. Rights, and the protections they convey, aren’t given, they are fought for. Those in control very rarely, if ever, give up their power. We’ve gotten the rights we have now with revolutions, protests, votes, and heart to heart conversations. Humans have come a long way, but I think it’s safe to say the 80/20 rule applies (The last 20% of the work will require 80% of the total effort).

I’m grateful that in the time and location I live, we don’t have to spill blood to change things. Gay people aren’t stoned or burned to death. I don’t have to be religious. I’m a white male, so I don’t experience the same things as a woman or ethnic minority, but I can empathize and fight to change the culture that has suppressed them for hundreds (or thousands) of years. Just because your rights aren’t being violated, doesn’t mean you should relax. We all have a collective responsibility to work for positive change, even if that just means being educated about the issues facing other humans.

 

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