Tuesday, July 21, 2009
Everyone in the United States likes to think of personal rights as absolute. Not all personal rights afforded to those in the country are absolute. Actually, rights can be categorized according to their privilege. Absolute Rights First of all, people have some rights so basic that few would deny they must be absolute. They have the right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. But, just as soon as one loses these rights, so does everyone else. Infringement upon one person's absolute rights essentially means the rights are negated to all. Drawing an analogy to the obligation affording these rights is the saying, "No one is free unless we are all free." If all species respond to any command that one simple command is to survive. Every individual has the right to survive, but every individual is faced with the possibility that even supreme rights are not absolute unless he/she is willing to fight for them. Therein lies a personal obligation to oppose tyranny to insure the existence of "absolute" status. The most agreed upon absolute right is the right of survival. Yet, in all those cases in which the law is either too slow, or too feeble to stay the hand of violence, survival may be taken away. Homicide is justifiable in every case in which it is rendered necessary in self-defense, against the person who comes to commit a known felony with force against one's person, or habitation, or property, or against the person or property of those who stand in near domestic relations. The absolute right of survival supersedes murder charges in such cases. However, were other people's natural rights defended by the United Nations during the genocide in Rwanda? This case-study demonstrates that absolute rights, which have an impressive pedigree in legal and philosophical scholarship, may be nothing more than theoretical ideals—they are non-existent in certain practice. This is, indeed, a sad state of affairs when concern for national interests overrides global pleas for help to provide basic absolute rights. Constitutional Rights This category of rights seems to draw the most attention from those who claim the government is taking away the rights of the individual. To the immature, these rights are natural, but actually they are not. Almost all Constitutional rights can be restricted given a sufficient governmental interest. After all, the government of the United States is based on principles "of the people, by the people, and for the people." All of the citizens of this country will never unanimously agree on Constitutional rights. First, the legal rights provided by the Constitution define the relationship between the government and the individual and not between individuals. However, the Constitution can be amended, or in case the government was ever overthrown, it could be discarded. Legal rights are created by law and thus are subject to law. If the law changes, so can the rights. For example, Freedom of Speech restricts the government's interference with the freedom of speech, but the freedom does not restrict an employer (private person) from such interference. Even the government can restrict Freedom of Speech given a compelling interest. Or, consider the Right to Bear Arms. The government may take this right away from felons, persons with certain mental problems, or others subject to certain court orders. And, a person with a demented mental state is not given the right to decide if they want to be locked up for treatment. ... So their Constitutional rights are not absolute to them at that time. Student’s Constitutional rights are not always guaranteed when they are in school. ... Another Constitutional right that is infringed upon in schools is the searching of lockers and students; this is a violation of personal privacy. In fact, the Constitution can be amended, or in case the government was ever overthrown, it could be discarded. Legal rights are created by law and thus are subject to law. If the law changes, so can the rights. Where are absolute Constitutional rights? Natural Rights Some people believe in something call "natural rights." Such "rights," they believe, come from God or are somehow inherent in one's status as a human being. Such "rights" are simply their beliefs. They may not be enforceable and may not provide justification for, nor restriction of, any action. Simply put, they are not rights but beliefs, and they are not necessarily absolute. Really, since man is a part of nature, is anything created by man therefore natural? For example, since people do not live in a vacuum, consider thievery. Does someone have a right to pick an apple and eat it if someone else owns the tree? What if that is the only source of food and he will die without it? Theft out of necessity breaks the belief that people should not steal. Yet, is this natural right absolute? The belief that people, as creatures of nature and God, should live their lives and organize their society on the basis of rules and precepts laid down by nature or God are often deemed natural rights. Ancient Greeks argued in support of the existence of natural rights that belonged equally to all men (notice- men, not women at the time) at birth and could not be taken away. However, not all men chose to live within the confines of the natural laws and presented threats to the liberties of the others. At this stage man entered into a social contract (compact) in which a state (government) was formed to guarantee the rights of the members of society. Should unorthodox natural rights such as religious belief in neglect of medical treatment be absolute? Some religious sects handle snakes and drink poison based on beliefs they interpret from the Bible. Should these rights be deemed absolute when a child is forced or coerced to practice such dangerous behavior? Those who believe in pure natural rights, in particular, consider these rights beyond the authority of any government or international body to dismiss. Rights, like ice cream, come in different flavors or forms. Whether man-given or God-given, the right is constantly under scrutiny depending upon circumstances of its application. Some would argue the American citizen has no absolute rights. These people say rights are never absolute because they change consistently throughout the course of time. Others don't think there is any right which can be reasonably made absolute without negating the right of another. Absolute covers a lot of territory.