03
Sep
07

Our Rights: The Overlapping Gray Areas…

I just read an interesting article that illustrates a common, but not so visited aspect of our much valued “personal freedoms”. They are not as clearly defined many like to think:

For Dwight DeGolia’s neighbors, the last straw was the fake palm trees.

The 62-year-old retiree had spent years fixing up the sliver of sloping land outside his home, adding two putting greens that were almost 30 feet long, a small creek and a gazebo.

But the 8- to 12-foot palm trees made it impossible for neighbors to ignore DeGolia’s project anymore, a passion that they said was making the neighborhood look tacky and led them to take DeGolia to court.

Cities and neighborhood associations have struggled for years with how to handle situations in which eccentric people with a penchant for lawn decoration get into fights with nearby homeowners.

The battles often feature issues that are far from straightforward, such as whose property rights are more important — the woman who fancies dozens of cupid statues on her front lawn, or the next door neighbor who has to look at it? – [Yahoo/AP]

I thought I’d talk about this because it’s one of those areas that I think that American culture just doesn’t give enough attention to. The first and most important thing to remember is that, human beings are, at the same time, social, and very, very different.

Regardless of our intentions, so long as we have to interact with others whose beliefs, backgrounds, upbringing, etc., may be worlds apart from our own, we may do things to offend. Unfortunately, this can happen, even when we are exercising our “personal freedoms”.

Any good American will say that we all believe that our personal freedoms should be protected, and must remain inviolate. And in theory, this is good and admirable. Except for one, very large, problem. The idea of isolating and protecting an individuals personal rights is not always a realistic (nor universally practical) goal, since, in any social community, the areas of each of our individual rights overlap. Massively.

And unfortunately, being the litigation happy people that we are, we forget some of the lessons our parents taught us when we were growing up. You know, the ones about compromise? Sharing? We have become so selfish, that we will fight, tooth and nail, to the death, to do what we want to do, claiming justification under the flag of our “Individual Rights”.

We tend to completely ignore the fact that the person we may be in contention with, may have an equally valid right to say, do, or express whatever it is they feel the need to do at the time. Now I honestly believe that, with freedom, comes great responsibility. And, unfortunately, equally great sacrifice.

Everybody wants to have their freedom. But nobody wants to bear the responsibility, or have to be the one to sacrifice something. I believe that the idea of individual freedoms isn’t about each if us getting what we want. It is about trying to make sure that everyone, not just you, has a chance to get what they want.

We have to learn to compromise, be considerate of others. Try and resolve our differences. Be willing to listen. Be willing to compromise. Everyone should be willing to sacrifice something. Perhaps a little more this time, maybe a little less next time. It will change from case to case. And there are not perfect solutions.

But the willingness to compromise should be there, if we really all truly believe in the concept of individual rights. No ones rights should exist to exclusivity of all others. And until we learn that lesson, I think we will all just be going through the motions, and paying lip service to the concept of “Individual rights”. It will be a catchy phrase, nothing more.

And I don’t think we really want that as a nation. But that’s just my opinion.

Yard art is in eye of beholder and court – [Yahoo/AP]

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