Tag Archives: States’ Rights

It’s my right and I’m entitled to it!

22 Mar

Our culture is rife with ‘rights’ talk.  Just consider a few contemporary claims:

  • right to free health care
  • right to censor views one doesn’t like
  • right to end life whenever one wants
  • right to define oneself however one wants
  • right to approval, acceptance and approbation for one’s lifestyle choice
  • right to a certain income level

My husband and I were discussing the concept of rights the other night while fixing dinner.  He made the interesting point:

A right granted should not burden anyone else

As we discussed this idea, I recalled a statement I heard on a call-in show about Second Language Acquisition (SLA) that

All claims must be falsifiable to be legitimate.

The classic example is the Christian claim that Jesus Christ rose from the dead

What would it take to disprove that, but a dead body identified as the crucified Jesus, son of Joseph of Nazareth!

So back to my husband’s premise that granting a right to someone should not burden someone else.  He and I started to tick off rights granted to Americans by the Constitution:

  • life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness – we saw no harm or burden imposed on someone else
  • the Supreme Court granted women the right to choose an abortion – but even though LEGAL, it certainly harms many (the baby, the family members who wanted that baby to live, and not a few mothers themselves)
  • how about the right of a person who claims to be a different gender and wants to choose the bathroom most comfortable to him/her? – does that harm anyone?  Yes! the biological bearers of the gender who don’t want to share a public bathroom with someone born a different gender

What about environment?  Are we entitled to live in a smoke-free or perfume-free or a ‘differing viewpoint-free zone’?

If I want to smoke a cigarette, which is legal, should I be free to smoke where I want?  Is that a right or a privilege?  I could argue that it is included in my right to pursue happiness.

But what if you want to occupy that same spot and NOT have to smell my smoke, does that mean you can make me leave?  Is someone harmed there?

This gets tricky and requires thoughtfulness. If two people are required to work or live in a spot (like prison or the military) then a compromise can be worked out to accommodate someone’s privilege of smoking with someone’s preference (or health-related necessity) to work/sleep in a smoke-free area.

What about the right to a free education?    The Bill of Rights handles that and other rights not enumerated by the Constitution by leaving them to the states to handle.  The wording goes like this: The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.

Can you think of a ‘right’ that might be justifiable and one that brings harm to someone?   Of course we should define our term ‘harm’.  I can foresee the challenge such an exercise in clarity might be.  Bringing a group of people to consensus over an acceptable definition of ‘harm’ would take a while.

No small task for sure, but once we gain agreement on the meaning of our principle term, then we can turn attention, to let’s say, the 9th amendment and put those ‘granted rights’ up against the claim that granting a right should do no harm.  Take a look at how the Supreme Court has used this amendment.

Amendment 9 of the Constitution

With just a short look at a few rights, I do think that my husband’s premise that not harm should be done when granting a right to someone.

What do you think?

Add your thoughts in the comment section and let’s see if my husband’s claim stands or can be defeated by a counter-example.

Why we don’t see eye to eye

12 Oct

Both sides, liberals and conservatives, acknowledge a frightening trend in American culture and politics.  We have become a nation sharply divided into 2 camps.  Middle ground seems like a relic from an innocent and bygone era.  I wonder……Is that what Americans in the late 1850s might have felt?  Did the polarization and hatred ‘between brothers’ pain them too?  Did the two separate issues of slavery and states’ rights, painted in such a way as to offer no room for compromise, bother them?

I think I know why these painful times arise.  And the tool of logic and clear thinking can help us understand the reason behind these divisions as well as point us to a way to engage in some civil discourse.

Since I mentioned the Civil War, let’s start there.  The North and the South could not agree on any compromises that might have helped walk tensions back, thus averting war, because they were arguing two separate issues.

In broad terms, the central arguments of both sides coalesced around different issues:

  • The South championed their right as sovereign states to do what they constitutionally voted as best for each state.
  • The North supported the view of the worth and dignity of all men, black and white. They saw slavery as a moral blot on the nation which needed to be eradicated.

So when you have one side shouting Argument A and the other side shouting Argument B, nothing is heard nor can be settled.

In  a debate, both sides must agree to take up JUST ONE issue at a time.  They must settle and decide on ONE resolution to argue.  To wit:

  • Slavery is a moral evil and should be abolished by the federal government

OR….

  • Each American state has the sovereign right to govern itself, making the economic and political decisions deemed preferable by its citizens

One side advances reasons FOR the resolution and tries to convince an audience.

The other side builds its case AGAINST the resolution and equally tries to convince an audience.

What the two sides MUST not do is argue more than one issue at a time!

Consider other seemingly irreconcilable issues:

  1. Abortion – again two issues.  A woman’s right to decide about her body versus the unborn child’s right to life.
  2. How to evaluate Trump – the two paths seem to be policies versus character.  Those who support Trump build their case on their belief that he will champion policies that are best for our country.  Those who say they won’t vote for Trump argue based on his character flaws.

Logical friends, we get NOWHERE when we argue two SEPARATE issues AT THE SAME TIME!

So, the next time you find yourself in a discussion that seems to polarize you and your friend, call a time out.  Point out what you both are doing.  Ask your friend if she would like to continue discussing what clearly are important issues, but let her choose one position to take up.  Then guide both of you into articulating the question or resolution to each one’s satisfaction.   Narrow down and parse out what the two of you think you can calmly and rationally discuss.

And let the debate begin. No, you might not have time for the issue you would have liked to have first broached, but at least you are less likely to destroy your relationship and think each is impassable and hard-hearted! And you might learn something about each other that could strengthen your friendship.  And that is a good reason for any debate.