The Difference Between Someone's Rights And What Is Right
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The Difference Between Someone's Rights And What Is Right

"Ethics is knowing the difference between what you have a right to do and what is right to do." - Potter Stewart

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The Difference Between Someone's Rights And What Is Right

You can believe in someone’s right to do something all the while believing it is not right. Unfortunately, I think we sometimes confuse the two.

I’ve heard the line, “But it’s their right to do it,” many times over the past year, whether on the news or in discussion with friends, as moral justification for actions. Yes, under the law, in certain circumstances people are allowed to do whatever it is they are doing. However, it is still possible, and in certain cases to be correct, in believing what they were doing was wrong.

I think one of the best examples that's taken place over the last year or so and is still taking place is the uptick in protests around the country. In America, thanks to the ideas our country was founded on, we have the right to protest. Personally, I disagree with the premise of many of them; specifically the ones that ensued prior and during previously planned speeches by conservative speakers, ultimately getting them canceled. To practice your right to protest in order to suppress another person's right to free speech is wrong, and goes against the American values I know and love.

I am glad they have a right to protest, I just don’t agree with what they are protesting. To justify their protest by saying it is their right is silly because there is an important difference between rights and what is right.

The reason individuals are not prosecuted after doing things many may find deplorable comes down to the brilliance of the founding fathers.

Many believe the founders wrote our constitution foreseeing a future in which the political opinion of those in power at any point could swing very far one way or another. In reference to today, that would constitute the right side (conservative opinion) and left side (liberal opinion) of the political aisle.

With this being said, a term that has been circulating a lot over the last year related to this topic is, “hate speech." Based on which side of the political aisle you affiliate with, you may have differing definitions of the term and what constitutes it. The founding fathers, I believe, understood one way or another that what someone says at one point in time that is not seen as morally wrong under a given administration, at another point in time could be viewed as “hate speech” by a different administration. What has changed is not the idea itself, but those in power and what they think of the idea. This is why “hate speech” is protected by the 1st amendment, and why it is a good thing it is, thought can still be morally wrong.

I think the main reason why we fall into the, “It’s their right to do it so it is right for them to do so” trap is because we in some way agree ideologically with that person or group of people. It is then naturally cognitively dissonant to disagree with someone who you side with, because it in some way challenges your ideas and what you stand for.

It is similar to why when Tom Brady got nailed for Deflategate; you could not find a single Patriots fan that could look at the entire situation and see some of the shadiness of it. Tom Brady at no point acted outside of his “rights”, however some of the things he did raised some red flags. Except fans of his are blind to this side of the story, whether he was truly guilty or not. (He wasn’t) No matter what it is, when you have some stakes in the pot, you will naturally fight things that suggest your reality is not completely true.

So what I challenge you to do next time you may find yourself justifying someone's actions by stating, “it is their right to do what they did”, try and come up with a actual reasoning behind it. Because while our rights inherently, and rightly so, protect us from the government, it does not exempt us from public opinion. Also, take a step back, and ask yourself why you are justifying it this way. I would venture to guess it is because you, in one way or another, side with the given party. You are defending them based on their right to do whatever it is they did.

Lastly, if you find yourself hard pressed to come up with good moral justification, perhaps you do not morally agree with whatever action was taken, and hopefully will be closer to understanding your true moral compass...not just understanding what people are and are not allowed to do according to the constitution.

I believe we all have the capacity to hold good moral compasses. Just sometimes we get knocked off course and need to ask the right questions to realign.

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This article has not been reviewed by Odyssey HQ and solely reflects the ideas and opinions of the creator.
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