Rights and Responsibilities

We’re all talking and ruminating about that awful shooting in Arizona, and of course, I have to weigh in too.

Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, D-Arizona was critically injured in the shooting yesterday. Six others died, including a nine year old kid who was born on 9/11

Boiling down the whole thing, the situation our country is in now comes down to rights and responsibilities.

Talk of our Constitutional rights has been at a super high pitch for years now. The public, politicians, pundits all say our Constitutional rights are incredibly precious. They’re above all else.

Our rights are of course incredibly precious. But society has forgotten that those rights come with responsibility. Yes, we have the right to say pretty much anything we want. We can buy 100 guns for our house if we so choose. We can worship and pray and embrace religion in any crazy way we want.

But we’ve forgotten those rights come with responsibility. Responsibility has become a sin. Why? Because it’s too much work? Because responsibility is not fun? We want a free lunch?

Will vitriolic talking heads like Rush Limbaugh find it in themselves to tone down their inflammatory rhetoric?

Don’t we have a responsibility to consider the consequences of what we say? Shouldn’t we be responsible with the guns we have? Does our freedom to worship mean we can force that religion down other people’s throats?

The guy who did the Arizona massacre appears to be mentally ill. It’s not directly Sarah Palin’s fault for making the gun target map of politicians she wants out of office.

It’s not Rush Limbaugh’s  or Ann Coulter’s or Glenn Becks’s vitriolic language that directly caused this to happen. It clearly was not their intention to inspire somebody to kill innocent people.

But the mentally unbalanced seize on wild rhetoric to do their deeds. True, you never know what effect your words will have on someone, but still, shouldn’t we have the responsibility to at least pause for a moment before we say things?

In his press conference concerning the shooting, Pima County, Arizona Sheriff Clarence Dupnik nailed it:

Pima County, Arizona Sheriff Clarence Dupnik, lead investigator in the Arizona shooting, bemoans the rhetoric that can create a climate for violence. Photo from the Tuscon Citizen.

“When you look at unbalanced people, how they respond to the vitriol that comes out of certain mouths about tearing down the government, the anger, the hatred, the bigotry that goes on in this county is getting to be outrageous,” Dupnik said.

The vitriol in this country is largely about money. The pundits, the shock jocks and the talking heads say outrageous things because they know that will get them noticed, and they will make more money.

There’s nothing wrong with making a pile of money. It’s another of our rights, after all. But the right to make money also comes with the responsibility to do it ethically, in word and deed.

I don’t have a prescription on how to remarry responsibiity with our rights. But I’m afraid if we don’t figure it out, a tragic, deadly shooting in Arizona will be the least of our problems.

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3 Responses to “Rights and Responsibilities”

  1. Kasey Says:

    Excellent post. I was just watching Sheriff Dupnik’s press conference. I pointed to the TV and said “YES!” Sometimes it just feel so strange to see someone on TV that gets it and isn’t afraid to express it for fear it might hurt him politically.
    Thank goodness for people like him and you for this post. We all have to say enough is enough and sometimes we may have to raise our voice to do so. That doesn’t make us “as bad as them” it makes us fed up.

  2. mattalltrades Says:

    Thanks, Kasey.
    I, too, was yelling “Yes!” at the TV during Dupnik’s press conference.
    This incident might be a turning point. Either there will be a nationwide outcry that will end speech with violent imagery, or it will just descend from here.
    Here’s hoping the good people win on this one.

  3. Sheila Patterson Says:

    You are so right Matt! I jumped out of my chair too during Dupnik’s press conference. A voice of reason finally. But, I fear this is just the tip of the ice berg…

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