Rights and Reality

I saw a meme/poster/thing on Facebook that said “Every time something really bad happens, people cry out for safety and the government answers by taking rights away from good people.” The quote is attributed to Penn Jillette, of Penn and Teller. Whether or not he actually said it, I’m not sure. I could google it but that would give too much credit to the quote.

People like to use the word “rights” to defend their actions. If you speak out and say something hateful, you have a right to freedom of speech. If you pull a gun on someone, you have a right to bear arms. Protest at a funeral, you have a right to free exercise of religious practices. They are entitled to these “rights”, yet they self-righteously deny people the right to love and marry. They have a right to be hateful. Guns in the hands of the wrong people gives them the right to be violent, but people are being denied the right to celebrate LOVE in a joyous union.

I also read on Facebook, a friend of a friend who commented on a status update about New Zealand passing a bill (convincingly I might add) giving the right for gays to marry. This FOF (friend of a friend) said they are “just not in favour of changing the definition of marriage.” Who defines what a marriage is? The bible? The church? I am married, but I don’t go to church and was not married in a church, so should my relationship be classified as something other than a “marriage”? “Give them the same rights and call it something else,” FOF argues. What does it matter what it’s called? Why is it so offensive to have it be called a MARRIAGE, just like it is for straight people? And tell me, how does it affect you? The only people who don’t want these rights for everyone are people who aren’t affected by it what so ever.


Similarly, when something terrible happens, like the rape (and subsequent death) of the girl on the bus in India or the abduction and murder of Jill Meagher, people talk about our rights to be or go where we want to, when we want to, without being harmed.

I don’t deny that it should be a basic human right to be able to walk down any street at any time of day, on our own, and make it home safely. Sadly, I don’t think it is a reality. And as much as I’d like to tell my daughter, if I had one, that it is ok to walk alone in Surfers, at 3 am, is that the reality? Not really.

My mum was a single mother of three girls. One thing I always remember her telling us was to not put ourselves “in that situation.” This is not saying anyone is asking for it or that they deserve it or that they are in any way at fault for being where they are. NO ONE asks or deserves to be assaulted, abused, harmed in any way, much less murdered. And in a perfect world it wouldn’t happen, but it does.

What if could teach women that they can do or be whatever or whoever they want, but we also taught them to think twice, to question situations, that they don’t always have to be strong and independent. What if we taught them that there is nothing weak or wrong with having a friend walk you home? Because there may come a time that her actions and decisions in a certain situation save her life. You can’t control what others do, but you can control what you do.

Every day I see news stories that make me wonder why we ever bought a child into this world. The most recent story was about 23 year old Sunil Tripathi – still so young – who was mistakenly identified as one of the Boston bombers from the security footage. This young man’s body was found in a river. With very little details available, it left me wondering if he had taken his own life or if someone had decided to take justice into their own hands. I worry about my son, as he grows up, what kind of trouble will he find himself in? Possibly by simply looking like someone who committed a terrible crime.

I wish I could believe in a world where our rights protect us, but it is not the world we live in today. It’s not the world that women in the middle east live in. It’s not the world the Newton, Connecticut children lived in. It’s not the world Sunil Tripathi or Jill Meagher lived in, either. Bad things happen. Sometimes foregoing some of our rights can stop them from happening. I guess the question is, what is more important?

Check out this video. Proof that people only want rights and laws when it suits them. Food for thought.

37 thoughts on “Rights and Reality

  1. This is interesting – in the US, that quote gets bandied about a lot, in reference to the idea of having their guns taken away (seriously, who needs an automatic assault rifle??? That they laugh at the gun toting Kazakstans in Borat is insane, considering what they insist on toting).
    But take airport security – isn’t it better to have inconvenience and a long process but get peace of mind at the end? In Paris during the Algerian bombings, bins were sealed and bags checked on entrance to shops and museums. It was just the new process and overnight, everyone adapted.
    I think the fear of loss of rights has been perverted in many cases, look at the fear of socialist medical practice – the fact that it means most Americans lose access to affordable medical treatment is irrelevant, it was dressed up as their rights, and they’ll fight not to have it. (?)
    Basic rights and minor inconveniences are not the same thing. Funny how we don’t fight for the rights of the disenfranchised over the globe…

    • It irritates me to know end the whole “right to bear arms” argument. Kids have the right to go to school safely too! What about their rights? I saw another thing on FB “One failed shoe bomb attempt and we all have to take our shoes off at the airport, 100,000 gun related deaths and nothing changes?”

  2. As always such a thought provoking post – and so very true !
    If people would mind their own business about issues that don’t concern them, if we could all live and let live, the world would be a nicer place to live in.
    Have the best day !

  3. This post is certainly food for thought. As humans, we usually only want and say something when it’s convenient to us. As long as its convenient and the norm, it must be right, right? I wish more people would dig deeper like you do and think more about issues before just accepting the way things are and saying there’s no need to change anything.

    Ai @ Sakura Haruka

  4. I love this post, it all so 100% true! And I think your Mum had the right idea teaching you girls the way she did. I know I do the same with my girls.

    It’s a scary thing knowing the every day person has the right to bear arms, I think that guns should only be allowed to those who truly need them – defense forces, police etc.

    Great post. I love it, and it’s so perfectly written 🙂

    MC x

  5. Great post Aroha! There always seems to be knee jerk reactions after any major disaster. I do however believe a considered evaluation needs to be done when the dust settles as we can always learn from situations and sometimes we need rules and to forgo our rights to make sure the majority stays safe.

    Happy IBOT 🙂

    • You’re right, there are knee-jerk reactions, and we should wait until the dust settles. I guess I worry sometimes about how many situations have to happen before action is taken though.

  6. I think we need to replace the word ‘rights’ with wisdom – if we are guided by what is wise, and have an understanding of wisdom in its purest form, we can at least have some assurance that we’re doing all we can to make life the best we can for ourselves and others x

  7. I think the premise of rights is wrong. It’s a selfish idea that only comes from considering your own needs and desires. Life should not be about what you’re entitled to, but what you can give to others.

  8. This is so interesting and real food for thought! I couldn’t agree on the topic of marriage. Does it really matter who you are?? I think not!! It’s far too easy to become judgemental these days. xx

    • he he, I knew what you meant! Funny how much difference one word can make! ha! I guess we are all judgmental to an extent, but at the end of the day, if it doesn’t affect us, what right do we have to be?

  9. Underlying rights and righteousness is often anger. We hold claim to what we believe is ours. But everyone’s idea of rights and justice of course does not match up. Rights are so subjective. I think you are sensible to raise your children with an awareness of what is possible, rather than what is ideal.
    The vote of gay marriage in NZ gives me hope. At some point, we will be the only westernised country with archaic views and will be forced to change.

  10. I think we need to teach our children independence and free thought. I haven’t lived under my parents roof since I was 12, boarding school, university, overseas experience, but from a young age they tried to make sure I knew my rights, my strengths and that I was strong, independent and be aware of what is going on.

  11. Freedom of speech has gone a little cray cray now that SM is so open and opinions are out there no matter what you believe. I think its important to teach our kids to think for themselves but to be open to change. I hope when their generation are adults we will be a kinder, more forgiving society! xx

  12. Great points Aroha! So many people have opinions on things that they don’t even know all the facts about, and then are so vocal about it.
    I think one of the best lessons we can teach our kids is to be aware of their surroundings and what’s going on around them. Yes, it would be lovely to be safe and happy at all times, but sadly that’s not reality. x

  13. You raised really interesting points in this post Aroha. I agree with you about the fact that people are so much in a hurry to scream about how their rights are being not respected. These people think that they have the rights to do this and that but don’t necessarily think about the implication of their action. Everyone would like to live in a world without war and violence but, unfortunately, those things are part of our life. My dad kept telling us one thing when we were in our teenage years: Yes, you have rights but with every right comes an obligation so think about the consequences of your actions. I think it’s important to teach this to children.

  14. Like the old saying “It is better to give then to receive” I agree that rights can be incredibly selfish, but can make us feel significant. We just need to learn to make other people feel significant as well!!!

  15. Hello, I really don’t understand the fuss over same sex marriage at all. Perhaps all purely civil and non-religious ceremonies should be called something else? But I’m sure religious gay people would love a religious ceremony and why shouldn’t they have that if it is important. I write as someone for whom marriage is totally immaterial, not married but 18 years and four children into a very committed relationship!

    The world has always had terrible things happen, I’m emailing from Scotland and we’ve been to battle sites where people suffered enormously, and the terrible starvation that followed was hideous too. We can only hope and pray and teach ourselves and the kids resilience, because bad things happen to everyone. It’s the real world. Sadly!

    • That’s right, bad stuff happens, all too often unfortunately! We need to enjoy life but also not live it with our heads in the clouds. I imagine the places you’ve visited in Scotland were amazing, and probably quite haunting also.

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