11 January 2007

"Rights" Part III - Life

It’s been a few weeks since I posted concerning what some people refer to as rights and the need to refer back to our founding documents to figure out what are rights and what are really just wants. The Declaration of Independence is a pretty good spot to look. It talks about “Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness” as rights which may not be denied to anyone. Here, I’ll look at Life.

It seems to be a fairly straight-forward, inalienable right. Let me live, I’ll let you live, in the most fundamental sense…within the society, we don’t kill each other. No need to go to great lengths to clarify that, I think.

However, two concepts in today’s world directly impact the right to Life. Capital punishment and abortion are both practices within the US, and some argue that these two practices are directly counter to the Declaration of Independence.

Capital punishment, I believe, is not counter to the right to life in any way, shape or form. When a citizen commits an act which society has deemed a heinous crime, the citizenry has the prerogative to punish to the utmost. The criminal, once tried (and in the case of the US, afforded mandatory appeals) and convicted, I think it is reasonable to impose the death penalty. In a free and open society, which the US is, it is reasonable to expect everyone to know and understand the basic laws of the country. Those who have an idea to commit serious crimes should (through their own learning) know the consequences of being caught.

Once convicted, the criminal loses rights, even the right to life if the law of the land, having been created through legislation of elected officials (and therefore through the citizenry). While the criminal should receive consideration so that his or her treatment is humane, they have forfeited their rights. The criminal is at the disposal of the State. There is a term out there, “criminal rights,” which seems to have some sort of codification based on our founding documents. Perhaps there needs to be a re-codification of “criminal rights” based on something different, something stand-alone. Serious criminals should have their rights, but those rights should be greatly restricted. They do not command the freedoms as put forth in the Declaration of Independence and other founding documents.

The other topic which challenges the right to Life is, obviously, abortion. I have to admit that I do not have any answers here at all. The topic of abortion goes to the very core of our culture, because it touches on our value of human life (or, depending on your point of view, potential human life) which cannot defend itself at all. However, I do not think that the issue of abortion is one which should be primarily dealt with through legalisms and semantics. I think it would be more appropriate, and infinitely more difficult, to create a culture in which children are viewed and cherished for what they are: the future (and while that may sound cheesy, it doesn’t mean that we should make endless pop songs about “the children are our future”). I get the feeling that some children are seen as an encumbrance, as a burden unwanted. Perhaps the concept of children as bothers is why abortion is a conceivable option to some, specifically those who have multiple abortions during the course of life.

But, then again, I’m not in the position to have to make that choice, not even once. Additionally, I’m a guy, which (in my opinion), makes my point of view on the subject necessarily flawed. But, again, I think it’s reasonable to attack this symptom of a problem through cultural means, not through legal methods.

Otherwise, I think we have a pretty wide field in which to live. How we live is our choice, each of us…but, more on that in the next two parts.

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