As a kid, oooh, I hated being told what to do! I looked forward to the day when I could finally boss my parents around and make them wash the dishes or stop reading and go to bed. I mean, who likes feeling powerless in the face of such tyranny?? When I got to high school I finally found the right word for it — infringe.
Me: “Mom, Dad… You are infringing on my right to privacy!”
Mom/Dad: “Too bad. You live in this house, you follow our rules.”
Boy am I glad I’m finally an adult and can do whatever I want!
Oh, that’s right.
I live in a community, state, and nation in which we have all agreed to allow some of our rights to be limited, or rather, infringed upon. I understand better now why it needs to be that way. We exchange some of our rights for the guarantee of other, more important rights. For example, I trade in my right to drive however I want in exchange for an orderly and predictable driving environment. I expect everyone else on the road to have committed to the same. To make sure we all know how to have an orderly driving environment we make laws and hire police officers to enforce them.
Like in a family, these laws, or social contracts if you will, are managed by our parental law makers at the local, state, and federal levels. And, just like how families vary (But my friend’s mom lets him have a cell phone!) we see laws vary from state to state. The common threads of our local and state laws are determined by federal laws. To clarify any laws or determine if a law has been violated, we have a judiciary system. Judges study the law and are given power to determine what laws mean in application as well as to determine if any new laws aren’t good. (I wasn’t technically eating in the living room, my feet were behind the line.)
That doesn’t mean, however, it all goes smoothly. Now that I am the boss (finally!), I realize just how difficult it can be. I’m the lawmaker, law enforcement officer, and judge. My spouse is too and we sometimes sees things differently. So, yeah, I appreciate what a complicated and difficult job our lawmakers have in determining legislation. It’s hard for police officers to make sure they’re only catching people who truly violate laws, and not upset law-abiding citizens. It’s difficult to be impartial and judge things fairly. (Honey, you’re too lenient. You’re teaching him it’s okay to be disrespectful. — No, I’m not.)
And that’s why there has been constant debate ever since our founding fathers created this blessed nation. It can be difficult determining what our laws and social contracts should look like. It was a lengthy process forming our initial Constitution. Along the way blood, sweat, and tears have contributed to each amendment. It’s just really hard; defining rights, figuring out to whom these rights should apply, recognizing who is being left out, and then finally writing and amending laws to properly protect those rights.
It’s always complicated. It’s never easy, no matter how fundamental the right we’re trying to address. For the skeptic out there, think of a basic and straightforward right and I guarantee there’s a way to make it complicated. The right to life, maybe? Abortion, death penalty. The right to vote? Slaves, women, voting age, felons, identification requirements, defining citizenship.
Yeah, nothing is straightforward.
I bring all of this up because many of the debates going on right now in politics surround this balance between protecting rights without infringing too much on the rights of others. As I’ve mentioned in other articles, we all see things differently — and for good reason. The more perspectives we include the better our laws will be.
And that’s why it’s important to join the conversation.
See my graphic? Get it? In fringe. I’m in fringe! #momjokesrule