Jejudo, South Korea
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?