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Passions in Poetry

Rights and Responsibilities

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Brad
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0 posted 12-18-2001 09:08 PM       View Profile for Brad   Email Brad   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems  View IP for Brad

This is connected to LR's thread and I posted it there but decided to give it its own thread:

If someone has rights, they can lose them. If they can't lose them, they don't have rights. How can a foetus, through its own action, lose its rights? A criminal loses his or her rights by not accepting the responsibility of abiding by the law, by not respecting the rights of others. In order to have rights, you have to have responsibilities. What responsibility does a foetus have?

I don't see how we can separate rights and responsibilites for that would mean that when someone abrogates their responsibilites we can't infringe upon their rights.

And that's exactly what we do.

Tim, in response, made the excellent point that this would also involve the mentally infirm, those incapicitated through age, disease, or accident, and infants after they were born.

I agree.




Denise
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1 posted 12-18-2001 10:30 PM       View Profile for Denise   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems  View IP for Denise

I disagree strongly with that deduction, Brad. Although having rights does bring with it responsibility, I don't think that the incapacity to fulfill responsibility negates rights. I believe that the only thing that negates a persons rights is a willful violation of responsibiity, not an incapacity. I think we tread on very dangerous ground when we hold that the weakest, most dependent in society have no rights. Very dangerous ground.

And knowing Tim, I'm think you misunderstood his statement, Brad.
Brad
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2 posted 12-18-2001 11:20 PM       View Profile for Brad   Email Brad   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems  View IP for Brad

I expect many will feel the same way (and I don't think for a moment Tim agrees with me), but I've wanted to do this for a long time.

I think we already are on dangerous ground, Denise, and we need to shift the debate from rights separate from anything else to rights tied to responsibilities.

This is not a knock down argument for the pro-choice group by the way. In fact, it does very little except shift the terms and the agents involved. Try not to see this as RIGHTS/responsibilities but as RIGHTS/RESPONSIBILITIES.

It does not mean that a doctor or family member can do what they want to someone incapacitated for that neglects responsibility.  

But what does it mean to have rights if those rights can't be exercised?

More later,
Brad
Ron
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3 posted 12-18-2001 11:23 PM       View Profile for Ron   Email Ron   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems   Click to visit Ron's Home Page   View IP for Ron

quote:
If someone has rights, they can lose them. If they can't lose them, they don't have rights.


Brad, you're building your questions on premises that haven't been established. That's like saying I can only have blue eyes if they can turn to brown. If they can't turn to brown, then they were never really blue.

If that one seems absurd, let's take one closer to yours. Life cannot exist without death. Just as in your example, we're very much accustomed to seeing the two go together. But does that necessarily mean the former is defined by the latter?
Denise
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4 posted 12-18-2001 11:35 PM       View Profile for Denise   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems  View IP for Denise

I guess I'm not understanding why you assert that we are already on dangerous ground and why we need to shift from rights not tied to something else and rights tied to responsibility and why we should see RIGHTS/RESPONSIBILITY vs. RIGHTS/responsibility? Just for the sake of philosophical debate or as it may affect decision making down in the nitty- gritty of real life? You'll have to enlighten me. Perhaps I'll be better able to understand your point with a fresh mind. I'm off to bed. Check in with you tomorrow.

One thought~
A person can still exercise their right to life, even though incapacitated. The quality may not be there as in a healthy person but it is still life, until death.

hush
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5 posted 12-18-2001 11:39 PM       View Profile for hush   Email hush   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems  View IP for hush

Aren't our primary unalienable rights those of Life, Liberty, and Pursuit of Happiness? Fetuses, infants, and the infirm, may only be able to exercise the latter two to a limited extend, or none at all, but to the best of my knowledge, they all exercise the first one.

I think your premise here is questionable in the first place. "How can a foetus, through its own action, lose its rights?" It can't. I don't see where you're going with this. Are you saying that because a fetus is incapable of losing rights on its own, it must not have them in the first place?

"In order to have rights, you have to have responsibilities." No, I don't think this is true. I have several pet dogs. Now, I know this is Apples and Oranges anyway, but just because my dogs don't work for me in any way, I think they still have the right to be fed. Here's a better, much more relevant example, which has already been brought up- what responsibilities does an infant have? Do they have no rights? If so, where do we draw the line? Would it be legal to kill the child after delivery because it isn't useful enough yet to warrant having rights?

I guess I don't understand the idea of resposibility being the sole (or most important) prerequisite to attaining rights. I think the two can definitely exist seperately... slavery is a prime example of this. Slaves had to bear huge responsibilities, and got no inherent rights in return- they were property.

Are we reducing the fetus (or child or invalid) to property status? Is it just easier to deal with that way?

"we are all citizens of the womb before we subdivide
into shades and sexes- this side, that side" -Ani DiFranco

Tim
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6 posted 12-19-2001 12:08 AM       View Profile for Tim   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems  View IP for Tim

In order to have rights, you must have responsibilities?
Then either, everyone has equal responsibilities and equal rights or...
those with more responsibility have greater rights...
the logic would seem to be contrary to the prevailing view of society in most civilized countries.
I suppose you could argue a threshhold exists where you meet a minimum level of responsibility, you are entitled to all rights.  Or do we adopt a sliding scale of rights/responsibilities?

[This message has been edited by Tim (12-19-2001 12:13 AM).]

serenity blaze
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7 posted 12-19-2001 10:17 AM       View Profile for serenity blaze   Email serenity blaze   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems  View IP for serenity blaze

Brad? Me confused. Here I am holding my hand up again and saying "I don't get it."

Could you explain further your intent here, SOON? (I'm soon to be off again on one of my disappearing acts.)

Thanks.
Jamie
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8 posted 12-20-2001 01:41 AM       View Profile for Jamie   Email Jamie   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems   Click to visit Jamie's Home Page   View IP for Jamie

quote:
It does not mean that a doctor or family member can do what they want to someone incapacitated for that neglects responsibility.



not sure what you mean by this Brad-- but, health care professionals use implied consent laws to care for the incapacitated-- whether it be  physical, mental or even from substance abuse. To fail to do so would actually be considered negligence or breach of duty.

I am sure you had something else in mind when you made this statement, I am just not sure what it is.



There is society where none intrudes, by the deep sea, and music in its roar.
byron

Stephanos
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9 posted 12-20-2001 01:38 PM       View Profile for Stephanos   Email Stephanos   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems   Click to visit Stephanos's Home Page   View IP for Stephanos

Brad... this was my response on the abortion thread... since we jumped threads I wanted to post it here.  Perhaps more comments later, but I think I am expressing some things already said by others on this thread.



Brad,

you're vascillating here.  2 day old babies and the mentally infirm do have rights.  And  laws are set in place with intent to protect those rights.  If we are to go with your theory about rights being inexorably bound to responsibilities, then we have to say that the laws are wrong which protect the "rights" of newborns  (since they don't really have any, due to their lack of responsiblity ).   The genial  "We should care" idea, isn't enough to protect those newborns, and neither is it enough to protect the rights of pre-born human beings.  

You've only replaced the measure of "humanity or not" with "responsible or not"... which is not presently our standard for many other classes of people who are not capable of being "responsible", but indeed have rights... so much so that anyone violating them is subject to criminal prosecution.   If your criterion isn't accepted in those areas why should it be accepted with a fetus?

Another great oversight in my opinion is presuming to know when and what level at which anyone has  valid "responsibility" or not.  How many are in such conditions that the smallest tasks (unconsious to you and I) are their formidable responsiblities for the day... if not to someone else, then to themselves, their loved ones, or to God.  For example, chewing food spoon-fed by a caretaker for some elderly persons with organic brain disorder is something that quite possibly takes more determination than you or I can know.   And even if you don't concede that such things entail "responsibility",  what about the kindred stock from which it springs, "responsiveness"?  . . .a much better (and safer) litmus test by far.  Fetuses kick and suck their thumbs in utero.  They are very active and responsive... and who are we to set the event horizon of 'responsibility' and most of all, of humanity, or the rights thereof?

And where you said "If they can't lose them (rights) they don't have rights"...  Though rights are taken away through one's own actions or in the case of the helpless through someone else's, those rights were never granted based on any action, or lack of.  Those rights were granted on the basis of being.  "Inalienable rights endowed by the Creator".  How responsible did you have to become before you had rights?  I agree that rights are always bound to responsiblity, but in many cases that responsiblity is proxy.  The preborn is one (among several) of those instances.

Stephen.

[This message has been edited by Stephanos (12-20-2001 01:40 PM).]

Interloper
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10 posted 12-20-2001 02:02 PM       View Profile for Interloper   Email Interloper   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems  View IP for Interloper

Brad,

Please share with me at what age a person is endowed with or assumes responsibility.  And, yes, I believe a fetus is a person.

I always thought the "responsibility" of chilren was to grow, develop, and learn.  that goes for a fetus or a 2 year old and everyting in between and beyond.

Take that

[This message has been edited by Interloper (12-21-2001 02:44 PM).]

Local Rebel
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11 posted 12-20-2001 04:08 PM       View Profile for Local Rebel   Email Local Rebel   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems  View IP for Local Rebel

It is an interesting premise Brad, but fallacious, as Ron has pointed out that responsibilities bestow rights.  This has been a problematic discussion for some time and even the framers of the U.S. Constitution didn't get around to defining clearly what 'rights' meant in regards to personhood.

The fourteenth amendment is the benchmark for this discussion legally which states:

Section 1. All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and
subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States
and the State wherein they reside. No State shall make or enforce any
law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the
United States; nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty,
or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within
its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.

Note the use of the word 'born' in regards to the establishment of rights here.  But the use of the word person becomes nebulous.  In law it has been interpreted to mean not only natural persons but artificial persons as well (a corporation is considered an artificial person in that it is a legal entity set up to represent the rights of its owners independently from them and as a single entity).  This is true for the first usage of 'person' but the latter invocation of the term in regards to citizens and legal corporations -- in regards to the 'due process' clause also extends the definition of person to non-citizens as interpreted by the courts (something that should be considered in our war on terrorism).

The fact that rights can be removed via due process does speak the notion that there are responsibilities inherent to being a citizen or even a human being, but the correlation between having rights and having responsibilities is a fairly murky one at best -- it would be stronger to say that along with personhood comes rights and responsibilities.

[This message has been edited by Local Rebel (12-20-2001 04:13 PM).]

Brad
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12 posted 12-20-2001 05:02 PM       View Profile for Brad   Email Brad   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems  View IP for Brad

Serenity,

I'm not sure. I do think that 'rights' are thrown around so much today that we've lost their meaning -- they've become a political cliche and mean nothing more than, "Don't tell me what to do." and/or the obligation to protect those who can't protect themselves.

So I'm trying to rethink the idea of 'rights' so that they are both more limited in scope and, at the same time, more concrete, more easily agreed upon. Inalienable/unalienable/natural rights in the Declaration of Independence justifies fighting back, it doesn't guarantee anything. If it did, we wouldn't have had to fight a war.

In other words, it's saying, "King George, you're in the wrong, we're in the right in the eyes of God," although technically, as one British friend pointed out, the Revolutionary War can be seen as Free Englishmen demanding their historically guaranteed freedoms from a German King.  The Divine Right of Kings was already, if not completely demolished, certainly on its way to extinction in eighteenth century Britain.

How many Americans, how many Britons believe in the Divine Right of Kings today?

Today, when we say "All men are created equal" we mean something quite different from what the American Founding Fathers meant (that's not completely true, the Founding Fathers were not united in their views, they compromised). Now we mean women, Africans, everybody that is human.

Except we still don't really mean that, do we?

A right means little unless someone else recognizes it as a right. I can claim all the rights in the world, but if the person in front of me with a gun decides to shoot, I don't see what those claims really mean except that the shooting was unjust. At the same time, if I'm holding that person's child at gunpoint, wouldn't that justify the shooting?

Regardless of my rights, regardless of my claims as a man, as a human being, that person is justified in shooting me.    

Unless of course, the child was trying to mug me and threatened me with a knife to the throat.

We can keep spinning this hypothetical forever, but my point is that my ability to live is dependent on both my 'willful violation' of other people's rights and the recognition that I, like those other people, have rights.

But isn't that recognition dependent on the belief that I also recognize their right to live?    

No reciprocal recognition (this is what I mean by responsible), no rights; or, if you want, no reciprocal recognition and we have to fight for those rights.

This doesn't begin to address many of the important issues brought up here (and I've touched on still more in this comment), but I'll tell you what, I'll concede that there may indeed be transcendent, inalienable rights in the eyes of God, that is was an important move two hundred and twenty-five years ago to counter the transcendent, inalienable rights of Kings.

But what do rights mean between people?

Brad    
Brad
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13 posted 12-20-2001 05:05 PM       View Profile for Brad   Email Brad   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems  View IP for Brad

Damn it, LR, you're jumping ahead of me. I was going to talk about the fourteenth amendment.

One step at a time, one step at a time.

Brad
Brad
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14 posted 12-20-2001 05:19 PM       View Profile for Brad   Email Brad   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems  View IP for Brad

I also think the eleventh amendment is important.

hush
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15 posted 12-21-2001 12:18 AM       View Profile for hush   Email hush   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems  View IP for hush

Brad-

"my point is that my ability to live is dependent on both my 'willful violation' of other people's rights and the recognition that I, like those other people, have rights."

Huh?

Okay- I'm getting a "You don't know what you've got till it's gone" vibe from that quote... but I'm not understanding why you have to threaten or eliminate another's rights in order to live or realize that you, yourself have rights.

Are you saying that you have the right to infringe on the rights of others, and you need to experience this in order to realize that you have the rights you are taking from someone? I'm not exactly catching your drift on this one. I understand the scenario you described.... I just can't quite connect the two together.

"I'm thinking about leaving tomorrow
I'm thinking about being on my own
I think I been wasting my time
I'm thinking about getting out"

[This message has been edited by hush (12-21-2001 12:18 AM).]

NapalmsConstantlyConfused
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16 posted 12-21-2001 12:51 AM       View Profile for NapalmsConstantlyConfused   Email NapalmsConstantlyConfused   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems  View IP for NapalmsConstantlyConfused

yarrrrrrrgh.
redefine "rights."
you do not have a "right" to a color television.
you do not have a "right" to a certain standard of living.
you do not have a "right" to a certain minimum wage.
you DO have a right to live your life your own way, as long as it doesn't interfere with anyone else's.
you do have a right to PURSUE happiness.... no guarantee that you will catch it, but you can pursue it all you want.
you have a right to freedom - you should be completely and utterly free to do anything you want to do that doesn't interfere with anyone else.
there are responsibilities with those. well, responsibility, singular, really.
DON'T INTERFERE WITH OTHER PEOPLE.
this is a false debate, as anything that requires more responsibility than you watching your own feet is not a "right" but an agreement that you make with society, part of the social contract.
RIGHTS are inherent in being a rational, thinking creature. they can only be "lost" when you have interfered with others to a point where you become a menace.
PRIVILEGES are granted by the government, your parents, whoever - and can be rescinded without cause.
a fetus, without the ability to make decisions, can neither ask for privileges, nor abdicate responsibilities.
with regard to abortion, then, i pose this:
a human's rights can only be curtailed if the person is interfering with others.
a fetus cannot interfere with others, as it cannot yet make choices.
a fetus is a human being and therefore entitled to the same rights and freedoms as everyone else.
which all begs the question: AT WHICH POINT IS THE FETUS A PERSON?
until you give me a scientifically accurate, rational, definitive answer, the whole abortion debate is a moot point anyway.
-Dave

[This message has been edited by NapalmsConstantlyConfused (12-21-2001 12:55 AM).]

serenity blaze
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17 posted 12-21-2001 02:28 AM       View Profile for serenity blaze   Email serenity blaze   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems  View IP for serenity blaze

Okay...lemme see if I am following here...

are we attempting to illustrate the difference of ability, "rights", and privelage?

I am also still having difficulty with the responsibilities issue too...(The charges against Ringling Bros. for "elephant abuse" came to mind, I must admit.)

But keep using visuals for me, Brad, as I think better that way. (I think, )
Brad
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18 posted 12-21-2001 02:29 AM       View Profile for Brad   Email Brad   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems  View IP for Brad

It's not your fault, it's mine. Either I'm not clear enough on my own thinking or I'm not using the right words. Probably a little bit of both.

What I mean is that to have rights, you have to have the potential ability (and therefore an inherent responsibility) to infringe the rights of others AND to be recognized as having rights yourself.

Let me take the screaming, "Fire!" in a crowded theater example:

1. I can speak.

2. I am recognized by others that I can speak.

3. In order for me to have and use the right to free speech these two points are necessary.

4. As a result, I can yell, "Fire!" in a crowded theater.

5. But in order to keep my rights as a full citizen, I must restrain myself from doing just that.

Thus, my right to free speech is dependent on my ability to violate it and the recognition by others that I have that ability.

Now let's go back to my original example:

1. A man in front of me has a gun to my head.

2. I scream, "You can't kill me, I have my rights!"

3. But that makes no sense because, of course, he CAN kill me.

4. It is his recognition of those rights that keep me alive, nothing else.

5. But those rights are also forfeit if I have taken his child as a hostage, if I have willfully violated the rights of someone else.

6. But let's say I'm Stephen Hawking. At first glance, one might think that from my point of view, he has no rights.

7. But that's not true because he can still communicate, he can still say, "Fire!" to another person or a voice recognition computer and kill the child.

8. Therefore, he has rights. He can participate in society.

----------------------------

One distinction that I haven't made clear yet is that between active and passive 'rights'. Everything I've talked about up to now has been concentrating on active rights: the right to worship, the right to free speech, the right to assemble, the right to own a gun. This is what I mean by 'rights'. This is my fault, guys, I should have made that distinction clearer from the start. Ron's points, for example, threw me for a loop because they can so easily be dispensed with (I'll do that later), I couldn't figure out what he was driving at, but what I've neglected is stuff like the right to no cruel and unusual punishment or, as Denise, pointed out the right to life (the right not to die).

These are, I contend, passive rights and therefore no rights at all.

Or rather, people who have the ability to torture or to kill do not have the right to exercise those abilities.

------------------------------

So why am I torturing everybody with all this stuff? Because I think the idea of intrinsic, universal, human rights is a joke.

It's untenable and nobody follows it.

And I can't get all this stuff out as clearly as I'd like, because I've been watching the baby. She just woke up.

Brad  
serenity blaze
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19 posted 12-21-2001 03:21 AM       View Profile for serenity blaze   Email serenity blaze   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems  View IP for serenity blaze

I'll wait, Brad. Your priorities are in order...smile...and? I'm a bit envious....Babies? I LOVE babies. A belated congratulations to you.
serenity blaze
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20 posted 12-21-2001 04:02 AM       View Profile for serenity blaze   Email serenity blaze   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems  View IP for serenity blaze

Okay...I came back to ask, by active and passive rights am I correct in concluding you are describing "legal rights" as active, and passive rights as "morality and ethics?"

Jamie
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21 posted 12-21-2001 08:47 AM       View Profile for Jamie   Email Jamie   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems   Click to visit Jamie's Home Page   View IP for Jamie

and don't confuse someone's ability to deny another's rights as a right in and of itself. That is only wrong.

There is society where none intrudes, by the deep sea, and music in its roar.
byron

Brad
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22 posted 12-21-2001 11:59 PM       View Profile for Brad   Email Brad   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems  View IP for Brad

Serenity,

The elephants at Ringling Bros. are a good example. If you look at Dave's argument above, you'll notice that he's saying that the abuse of animals cannot be interfered with because that would involve interfering with other people.

He's also arguing that a doctor, anytime he or she wants, can choose not to operate or care for a patient because it doesn't involve interference with other people.

This is the "your right to swing your arm ends at my nose" argument. But that doesn't protect your nose, does it?

Somewhere along the line, 'rights' came to be seen as a form or protection and/or empowerment but that is a myth. They don't protect you from someone who doesn't recognize them and they don't empower you to do anything -- you still have to have the ability to do something in order to do something.

When we separate rights from responsibilities, we abstract them to the point where they no longer mean anything.  When we argue that rights are inherent in individuals regardless, someone still has rights even when they were placed in a Soviet gulag. That makes no sense to me.  

But let me try to explain what I mean by rights:

1. A right is the social acceptance (not necessarily approval) to do something. Saying someone has a right is saying that he or she can do that action and we won't interfere.

2. In order to do something, you have to be able to do that something. I suppose you could say, "Men have the right to get pregnant," but it's useless until it's possible. Uh, is it possible yet?

3. This means that if you have a right, you can also violate that social acceptance. If men have the right to get pregnant, we can interfere if the egg is stolen for example.  

4. Therefore, if you have a right you also have a responsibility.

5. That responsibility or rather the choice to be irresponsible necessarily entails that a right can be taken away.

6. But that taking away is predicated on social procedures already agreed upon. A violation of one's rights is not the loss of that right but the loss of that right when those procedures aren't followed. A privilege is a 'right' that can be taken away without that procedure.  

7. Rights are a social phenomenon, not a natural one. You have no right not to be hit by lightning (or, as I would say, lightning cannot take the responsibility).

8. Rights are not entitlements. You do have the right to own a TV, you are not entitled to a TV (at least for now).

I probably missed something but that's where I'm coming from. I hope that at the very least everybody sees that I'm trying to de-mystify the term. Invoking rights does not give you magical powers.  

--------------------------------

So, who gets rights?

1. They have to be able to do something.

2. They have to be seen as able to do something (society's acceptance).

3. In order for that to happen, you have to participate in that society or be seen as having the potential to participate in society.

4. I think that potential can be defined by the ability to use language. Not just language however, rights should be given to people who can talk about rights. If they can't talk about rights, they can't accept the responsibility that comes with them.  

Be back later and try to deal with Interloper's excellent point about age.

Brad
  
Tim
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23 posted 12-22-2001 10:45 AM       View Profile for Tim   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems  View IP for Tim

We keep changing our definitions and premises.  For a society to function, there must be basic inherent rights.  Responsibilities cannot exist without rights.
How can you be responsible for something that does not exist?  If you do not believe in a god, then rights are not divine.  The rights are then inherently human.  If these inherent rights do not exist, then humanity is no more than a feral creature.  To some extent, I think we are playing semantics.  Cognitive ability may be an integral factor, but is not equated to responsibility. While you may need awareness to understand you responsibilities and rights, it does not follow that your rights do not exist if you do not have such awareness.  I fully agree with the concept of the perceived mushrooming of rights.  That is why I was somewhat confused when in another thread you defined political correctness merely as euphemistic speech, but that is another matter.  Bottom line, your points are still not clear, although I think I see the general direction from whence you come, but still having a difficult time making the leap of logic that rights only exist if you recognize their existence.
As an aside, some would disagree that you have an inherent right to kill in self-defense.  
Tim
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24 posted 12-22-2001 11:21 AM       View Profile for Tim   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems  View IP for Tim

and please do not forget the XI amendment.
I look forward to your thoughts on that subject.
 
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