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Sunday, October 24, 2010

Rights? What About Responsiblities?

Americans are well versed on their rights. Just ask and you'll find that nearly everyone is an expert in their Constitutional rights...and even some that aren't in the Constitution. Interfere with somebody's effort to do something and see how soon they explain to you what their rights are. And we are fortunate that we live in a country where we have enumerated individual rights like freedom of speech, freedom of religion, freedom from unreasonable searches and seizures, freedom to vote, etc. However, this is only 1/2 of the citizenship equation and one to which an unbalanced amount of attention is given by most Americans.

In our self-centered focus on our rights as an individual, we too often forget that we also have responsibilities as citizens. The only way a civilized nation can succeed and survive is if everybody accepts the compact which binds people into nationhood. Every citizen has the responsibility to be a good citizen. In the United States this includes many things but I believe the following are among the most important.

One, we have the responsibility to participate intelligently in the governance of our nation. The most visible aspect of this is voting. Personally, I believe if you don't vote, you lose you're right to complain....and nearly 1/2 of Americans abdicate this responsibility each election.

Two, we have a responsibility to pay our fair share of the cost of providing the essential services necessary to keep the nation safe and operating efficiently. While "fair share" can be a political debate, far too many people purposely work to avoid paying their fair share. Tax cheats ought to face severe penalties...perhaps even the loss of citizenship.

Three, we have a responsiblity to recognize that everybody else has the same rights as we do and to understand that means rights will sometimes collide. That means we must be willing to occasionally forgo our individual rights for the good of the larger society. You often hear people say "it isn't all about me", but we need to more often live this truth.

Perhaps politics and culture would be less contentious today if we spent less time worrying about our individual rights and spent more time focused on the responsibilities of citizenship.

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