Monday, July 2, 2012

Rights vs Responsibility

A friend of mine, Rachel, recently wrote a blog post about breast feeding in public.  It's a very thought-provoking piece about what we can do versus what we could do, in regards to this topic.  This discussion got me thinking a lot about our attitude towards personal rights in our society.  I know many people, and have heard the voices of many others, say, "I can do (or should be able to do) whatever I want in regards to [topic].  This is America.  It's my right and I'm going to do it whether you like it or not."

So my thought for today is this...

When do we stop flaunting our individual rights in the faces of others and start considering what actions of ours might be helpful to other people?

Not sure what I'm talking about?  Here are a couple of examples...

Breast Feeding in Public:  To Cover or Not to Cover

Nursing mothers have the right to nurse their babies in public without having to worry about exposure or public recourse.  It's illegal for a nursing mother to be told that she needs to cover up, stop nursing or relocate to a more private place.  In most instances, this law does nothing but protect nursing mothers.  Too often, women who are nursing in public are looked upon as if they are causing problems or are intentionally being provocative, even if they are making every effort to be discreet.  On the flip side, there are some nursing mothers who, knowing their rights, choose to unnecessarily expose their full breast in public because they want to "make a statement" about breast feeding or because they aren't considering the comfort of those around them.  While I completely agree that the comfort of the baby and mother should be the first and foremost concern when nursing in public, should it be the only concern?  Unfortunately, we live in a society where breasts are sexualized, which can cause discomfort to some.  Even though we can ignore the comfort of others while nursing in front of them, does that mean that we should?  Are we, as nursing women, the only ones who deserve to be comfortable in public?  Where should our personal line be drawn, between asserting our right to nurse our child and considering the comfort of those around us?  Just some food for thought.

Language:  To Swear or Not to Swear

I recently read an article about a town in Massachusetts that banned public profanity.  Apparently, there are a lot of people who are screaming about how this violates their first amendment right of free speech.  Whether it violates any Constitutional rights is a matter for the courts to decide.  My question here is the same as before.  Just because we can swear in public, does it really mean that we should?  Plenty of people feel uncomfortable around profanity.  If you are anywhere that puts you around small children, it's very likely that they could hear you and repeat your language, much to the dismay of their parents.  Should we ignore these points when arguing that using poor language is our right, or should we take a few moments to be considerate of those around us?

Anyway, feel free to weigh in and tell me what you think.  Just because we have the right to do something, does that make it okay in every situation?  Should the comfort or desires of others mean something to us when considering how and when we will exercise our rights?  What do you think?

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