Rights? What About Responsibilities?

I’ve been meaning to do this post since the question of rights came up in a recent post. It seems like everybody has a “RIGHT” to absolutely everything nowadays. Just ask them. What ever happened to the idea that rights are balanced by the responsibility to exercise them responsibly so as to not infringe upon the rights of others?

Picture courtesy of artofmanliness.com

Let’s take an easy hot button issue nowadays; guns. Yes, we have a constitutional right to keep and bear arms. That right is balanced by the responsibility to store that weapon safely, not wave it around threatening people, etc… Gun control laws may rub some people the wrong way but they exist to limit the right when a person can’t display the responsibility.

I could go on and on with various “rights”. Very few are legitimate rights at all. Instead of swerving off topic as I’m prone to do, I’ll simply say people would do well to remember their real and imagined rights end where others’ rights begin. Anything further there will have to wait for another post.

Getting back to rights vs responsibilities though, let’s look at the “rights” of the homeless, who were a side topic in that recent post. I’ve said in multiple posts that I have tremendous empathy for the homeless who truly want something better; to escape that life and rejoin society. They should be given whatever help they need to get back on their feet.

There’s a portion of the homeless who simply don’t want to live by society’s rules though and enjoy being “urban outdoorsmen”. This is REALLY obvious here in California. There was a quote in the Sacramento News and Review from one homeless lady saying how she refused to be “kenneled” into a shelter and demanded to know why the city couldn’t just set up free portable showers and toilets for her and others in the parking lot she was sleeping in.

First, there’s the obvious questions… What about the rights of the person or business that owns that parking lot? You have a “right” to somebody else’s property? To block parking and chase off the customers that the business depends on to be able to pay employees and pay for that same parking lot?

According to the Sacramento City Council, these same folks even have a “right” to aggressively panhandle. That means they’re free to use threats, intimidation and coercion to obtain “handouts” from regular people. If you or I do that, it’s called extortion, assault and strongarm robbery. The homeless do it though, and it’s fine. What happened to the right of the average person to be safe in their immediate surroundings?

The homeless have a “right” to camp where ever they want, defecate where ever they want, throw their garbage everywhere… THIS is the result in downtown Sacramento:

And that’s clean compared to some areas of San Francisco and Los Angeles.

Another consequence I mentioned before was that the river here has seven times the toxic level for ecoli virus because literally hundreds of homeless people use it as a toilet and garbage dump. One guy is setting up portable toilets for the homeless along the river and thinks it’s horrible that they don’t have toilets along the river. *I* think it’s horrible that it’s been almost a decade since it’s been safe for the general public to use most of the trails and parks that run along the river.

One bit of warped humor to come out of this was during the spring thaw earlier this year (after heavy snowfall), the high river washed a god deal of garbage to the shore along “Old Sacramento” and tourists roaming the 1800s era historic area all got to see how out of control our homeless problem is. The city blamed it on global warming, I kid you not…

So yes… TONS AND TONS of imagined rights while the general public suffers for it. THAT brings us to the bigger question beyond the one the general public’s rights: How do you presume to demand rights or anything else from a society that you want no part of?

I refuse to follow your rules, I refuse to act in a civilized manner, I care nothing about your or anyone else’s safety or rights, BUT I demand you give me anything I need or want to make my life comfortable. Does anyone see the insanity in that??

The demand there is for rights with that not only infringe upon the rights of others, but also come with no sort of responsibility to society attached to them.

Fixing this rights issue with the homeless and in dozens of other issues needs to happen if society is going to survive. How do we get back to a sane, responsible balance of rights and repsonsibility though? Too much of society today views responsibility and earning anything as filthy, outdated concepts.

5 thoughts on “Rights? What About Responsibilities?

  1. Doug

    Good observations. With advancing population growth in America, whether you want to assign it to normal birth rates or immigration policies, along with changing demographics as the population ages, can and does cause dramatic shifts in addressing social needs. Homelessness increases along with the population, even if the percentage of those increases stay the same. It’s a numbers game across the board. Population growth also increases the mental health problem as social stresses build. Wonder why there’s been so many severe weather tragedies with each passing tornado or hurricane? Sure.. the cause for them might be climate change but the costs realized by those disasters is directly related to increasing populations inhabiting large swaths of land in desired land areas of normal storm occurrence, and also where storms typically didn’t affect decades ago.
    Disease is becoming way more an issue in our lives and in some areas we can’t simply ignore what your neighbor does on his property… the hygiene levels of some families affecting your family… all things human are exacerbated with increasing population. We have individual rights but more and more “your” individual rights are going to infringe on “my” individual rights.
    The next time you take a look at the Bill of Rights try and extrapolate the actual cost.. many times in real lives… for maintaining that right. You mentioned guns. If there was no Second Amendment saying we could own guns then there would be.. 30,000 lives a year (or whatever the current number is) saved. Doesn’t take a rocket surgeon or brain scientist to see that. Freedom of speech? How many people die a year using their freedom of speech? My point is not one bit suggesting we should not have those rights. What I am saying is that having rights has human costs. Take our justice system we pride ourselves on in America on being fair and just.. yet all the time we see the wrongly incarcerated freed over a faulty process. Those people were victims of our justice system… and they paid with their rights being taken from them incorrectly, many times for decades. Our rights have real costs. You make the excellent point… just because we have a right, doesn’t mean we should just use it blindly without some thought to ramifications. Our responsibility as Americans is not just to defend those rights.. but taking the responsibility to know when to use them.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. Liz

    Actions have consequences. You want there to be free showers and toilets? Well, someone has to pay for them. If you don’t contribute, you can’t expect those things to be handed to you – unless you’re a child living at home.
    As for the porta-potties along the river – I can see where the person trying to set this up is trying to come up with a solution to people using the river as a running toilet. Not, perhaps the best choice, but at least it’s an effort. I’ll give credit there.
    Here, it’s illegal to harass, or threaten while panhandling. I honestly don’t know how well it’s enforced – I DO know that if someone is causing traffic disruptions the police will arrest them. There’s a very cynical side of me that wonders if it’s for the “3 hots and a cot” or if it’s something else.

    Liked by 1 person

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