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Letter: Rights, responsibility

In a recent discussion about constitutional rights, a thought came up: Can a right be right if it leads to wrongs? In other words, if someone can do something that is wrong by exercising a constitutional right, does that mean we should take a closer look at what that right entails? Of course, that leads us into the tricky territory of what’s considered “wrong” – there can be a smidgen of disagreement on that.

Every right can be taken to an extreme where it really does lead to serious wrongs. Because of this, it is natural (and wise) to define limits to rights. More important, with rights come responsibilities. Just because we can do something doesn’t mean we should do it. Shouldn’t being a responsible member of a community mean that instead of just focusing narrowly on our right, we give as much attention to the effects of exercising that right? Unfortunately, we’re often much less eager to shoulder the responsibility than to demand the right.

We would likely be much better off if, whenever we discuss rights, we spent an equal amount of time discussing the associated responsibilities. Responsibility is a vital component of community and character. Without responsibility, rights can too easily turn from a societal nutrient to a poison.



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