Rights

Standard

People who think that their rights are somehow diminished by the extension of those same rights to other people are a bit like those who believe in the steady-state theory of the universe. The idea is not only discredited but it is stuck in the 1950s.

We now know that the universe is expanding; it has been expanding for billions of years and will continue to do so until the end of time. (Coincidentally, time will end when the universe stops expanding.) So it is with rights. Rights expand and the world gets bigger.

This has been going on in the world for a very long time. There was, perhaps, a time when the only people who had rights were those who could seize them by force of arms. But you should first understand those were not rights, granted them by either a higher power or by a social contract. Those were privileges, taken by force and held by coercion and social control. People so often confuse privilege with right. Those who have inherited (and all so often it is an inheritance either from family or class) these privileges somehow conflate them with the natural order of things.

If it was the natural order of things, nothing would ever change. No revolution would ever succeed. America would still be ruled by King George 15th; France by Louis the 99th.

Revolutions extended rights from the aristocracy to the white male middle class. Over time, quieter revolutions extended rights to women and blacks and poor people and now to gays and transgendered people. This is not an inevitable march of history but the deliberate choices of societies to grow. Some chose not to grow; some chose to wind back the clock and diminish the rights of gays and women. Some even choose to revert to slavery and god-given powers to rule.

That is what the conflicts of the world come down to — not religion or culture or even class but the choice between freedom and rights for all or privilege and power for some.

These conflicts are not limited to struggles in the Middle East or in Asia or other far flung places. These struggles are going on right now in our own countries of the West — the supposedly progressive places — in our own communities and even families.

And it all starts when someone thinks that the privileges they have — money, power, recognition and opportunity — come from their rights rather than the restriction of rights of others.

There is a change coming — it won’t be easy but it will come. Because, friends, we’ve fought long and hard for our freedom and we aren’t going back now.

But that’s ten minutes.

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