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America: Land of the Free, home of the Brave. But what makes us free? What makes us Brave? More than two centuries ago, when these words were composed, America was all about living with the utmost defense of your rights and responsibilities. But today, the the meaning of rights and responsibilities has lost its meaning. People have forgotten the basic premise that with your rights come the responsibilities of citizenship.

The case in point is clearly visible in the 2000 Presidential Election. Firstly, voter turnout in the United States is roughly 50%. Why are only half of the people in our nation voting when the question at stake is who will lead us? In Florida, there was a huge dispute about the fairness of ballots, and the ballot being unfair to ethnic minorities. Regardless of what people find to bicker and complain about, in the end, it all comes down to, "Why the hell didn't you read the directions?" This is your vote. This is not some inalienable right that is granted to everyone on the planet. In some places, you may vote, but your vote means nothing. In other places, you will be forced to vote for someone regardless of your opinion for fear of harm. Worse yet, some places don't even allow citizens to vote. This is a right that people have fought very hard to gain, so why is it being neglected in every which way?

Another major battle being fought in society today pertains to abortion. Does a woman have the right to do anything she feels to her body, or does her unborn child have the right to life? My opinion is, 'what difference does it make?' My belief is that abortion is a right. But, with this right comes one of the most significant responsibilities that one can ever carry. If a woman is pregnant, she has the responsibility to decide early on whether to abort. If one is diagnosed with cancer, he can't wait until it's fully grown to decide to get treatment. With pregnancy, a woman should not wait until late term to abort. But the fact remains today that people are arguing about abortion. The problem is that in the battle, rights are being pitted against responsibility. This should not be the case.

With our freedom today, we are allowed to do pretty much whatever it is we please. So why is it that we choose to destroy ourselves by neglecting our responsibilities?

Rights and responsibilities are inextricably linked. Where there is the one, justice demands the presence of the other. The imbalance of the two implies the existence of an oppressor and a subject. Where one has rights without corresponding responsibilities, one is leading a life of privilege, exploitative of those absorbing responsibilities for you. Where a person has responsibilities absent the commensurate rights, he is being oppressed, and if the imbalance is great enough, he is essentially a slave, not enjoying the fruits of his own labor. The understanding of this relationship is an important part of adulthood. Unfortunately, I find this appreciation to be missing all too frequently among adults (and consequently their children).

Rights and responsibilities.

The phrase "with rights come responsibilities" is one of those magical phrases that cleverly hides the nature of what is being discussed. The phrase is most often used by someone in a position of power to get you to make concessions in some area other than the current one. For example; yes it is your right to have some maternity leave, but you have a responsibility to the company and your fellow co-workers not to place an undue burden on them.

A true right is not negotiable, otherwise it becomes merely a privilege. If you have to satisfy any conditions in order to qualify for a right it becomes merely a reward. Taking the rights of people and turning them into currency in order to exploit them is usually what speakers of this phrase are attempting to achieve.

The basic human rights, of life, freedom, and equality should never be dependent on good behavior. That is not to say that rights cannot be denied, it is possible to kill, imprison and subjugate, but doing so must be as much of an anathema as our support of such rights is of primary importance. For one person to act irresponsibly can not negate another's rights, it can however call for justice.

If we have any responsibility it is first to ensure that rights are maintained.

Of course we all have responsibilities as well, but these are mostly negotiated culturally and in context to our situation. Rights and responsibilities are very strange bedfellows, be cautious when you hear them mentioned in the same breath.

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