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The Limits of Liberty

It has been about three weeks since the Las Vegas tragedy, the most devastating mass shooting in recent US history. The statistics have become numbingly familiar: 58 dead and 546 injured. Any disaster like this shakes people to their core, bringing forth insecurities about philosophy, government, and violence. This is why we as a country have developed this cycle of grief in the wake of something like this: the shock, the sympathy with those affected, the disgust and horrification at the perpetrator, the polarized discussion about gun control, and finally, resigned acceptance. Though it hasn’t even been a month, the gun control debate has come and gone, yet it has left no reforms in its wake. Some passionately argue for protection of self and home, while others insist that the overwhelming presence of firearms encourages and provides opportunity for violence. However, the basis of the debate is much more general and all-encompassing. What right and left wing supporters are fighting over can be summed up in one word: rights.

In 2015, a county clerk named Kim Davis became famous. Infamous, more accurately, when she refused to issue legal marriage certificates to homosexual couples because it was against her religion and values. In her mind, condoning gay marriage was an infringement of her rights and opinions. Most people, including the judicial system, found that it was the opposite: she was infringing on the legal rights of those couples, inherently forcing her personal values on them. No matter your view on homosexuality, both parties felt that their liberties were not being honored. This same situation can be applied to essentially any debate that violently polarizes American citizens: the LGBTQ community, guns, women’s rights, abortion, affirmative action, immigration policies, and the national budget.

In each scenario, as stereotypical as it sounds, a compromise must be reached, one that does not enter the respective righteous spheres of each party. Kim Davis may not have approved of the couples’ choices, however it was never in her power to enforce her own beliefs onto others. To address recent news, according to US law, it is anyone’s (with some necessary exceptions) right to own a firearm, provided they are going through the proper channels. If one does not wish to own one, then that is their right too. Abortion is murder to some people, while others consider it an ethical medical procedure like any other. It is performed when needed, whether the reasons are health-related, emotional, psychological or even just personal. Those who do not think it to be moral do not have to have one, but it is not within their rights to enforce such thoughts onto others. This can even be applied to the NFL players kneeling during the national anthem. Many people do not agree with the players because, despite what they are fighting for, the timing is viewed as disrespectful. These people are fully within their rights to disagree, but the NFL players are also protected under freedom of speech and have to understand that not everyone will agree with their actions.

The United States was founded on the basis of those fleeing persecution and evolved into the “melting pot” of many who fled their homelands. Diversity is the very foundation of our country, which means that respect and tolerance are vital to the functioning of society and politics. Though you many not agree with someone, as a fellow American, you must respect their perspective and they yours. Despite our diverse differences, we are united by being American and mutual consideration should manifest from that.

I generally consider myself to be a libertarian, further right on the political spectrum than most Republicans. The root of the name itself is liberty: in other words, I want the government and everyone else to stay out of my business. It is my right to obey or abstain from the tenets of any religion, to protest and speak my mind, to have an abortion, to own a gun, to conduct my economic business as I please, and generally be independent. While this works more on a political basis than a social one, the mindset should be considered when addressing controversial issues like the ones above or simply interacting with others who are different than oneself. We may live in the land of the free, where we can reasonably do as we please, but there is a limit to that: when it starts to violate someone’s American rights, the same ones that to you yourself are entitled.

I am currently a freshman at Oxford College of Emory University. Along with writing for Her Campus, I am active with several student organizations and plan on double majoring in biology and art history. Most of my articles are reflective about subtle curiosities I witness on campus and in our sociopolitical society as a whole.
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