Give me my rights!

It is the sound of freedom and of a land that holds little back from you: Rights. Those things everyone talks about and comparatively few people truly understand. What is a right? What differentiates a right from a privilege?

The ubiquity of protestors chanting for and demanding their rights, to sob stories of people who have been deprived of their rights, to lawsuits over infringement of rights have led to serious questions about precisely that.

Without doubt, there have been instances of people’s claims of their alleged ‘rights’ being blown far and wide out of proportion. The clearest example may be Europe, where many work 35-hour weeks, and, in the case of France, by law, workers cannot put in over 35 hours a week. It is quite simply ridiculous to expect as a matter of human dignity the right to not work more than 35 hours a week. It doesn’t follow.

On the opposite end of the spectrum, there are at least a few generally agreed upon human rights: life and liberty among them. That means that humans ought never to have their lives taken of them without due cause and they should not have a tenacious government dictating their actions to them.

That leaves the middle ground. There are undoubtedly principles that fall in between clear rights and definitive privileges.

America has rightly founded itself on the establishment and preservation of these rights. It correctly realized from its outset that once it had won the battle to integrate these rights into a society and government, the war had just begun; they would need to be defended. This brought about the existence of two-thirds of our government: the executive and judicial branches. The majority of our government is dedicated to guarding what the minority portion has set forth. This is because thinking of great ideas is comparatively easy in contrast to implementing and maintaining the ideas.

So it is true with America: Establishing our rights was a small battle in the great war on evil and tyranny. Many realize the struggle we face in defending our rights, but few, if any, recognize the colossal task it entails.

Because we have failed to see how perilous the fight is, we have been stretched too thin to defend the rights we so desperately cling to. In our valiant effort to defend what we believe we are entitled to, we have begun to splinter and crumble from the inside out. We seek greater protection of our rights, but in doing so, we infringe on the very rights we seek to defend. In our efforts to protect our lives, we compromise on our ‘right’ to free speech, and vice versa. We begin to call many of our privileges ‘rights’ and in doing so, remove the magnificence of those rights. It seems Americans are no less prone to violating others’ rights than the rest of the world. Difficult times and hard experiences have forced America’s hand.

Have we been bluffing this whole time?