Being part of an enlightened society has always been a blessing and a curse. As humans, and especially as citizens of a democratic nation, we are entitled to many rights. Some are written down on a piece of paper somewhere and signed by our elected representatives. Some are merely understood as human rights.
Because of this sense of entitlement, many people believe they can do anything they want as long as it hasn’t been declared illegal by our government.
I disagree. My mantra to my children has always been “Just because you can, doesn’t mean you should.” This assumes that one has some sort of moral code.
Our right to free speech protects even those who choose to let loose a volley of four-letter words upon a playground full of preschoolers. Just because you can, doesn’t mean you should.
It also protects those who would stand in a town square under a white mask of cowardice and spew racial hatred into the ears of passersby. Just because you can, doesn’t mean you should.
Our laws allow one to smoke until you die, as long as you aren’t doing it in a public building, and you can get as drunk as you want as long as you aren’t operating a vehicle. But - just because you can, doesn’t mean you should.
In our country it is not illegal to cheat on one’s spouse, but… just because you can, doesn’t mean you should.
One definition of democracy that was used frequently in my husband’s 7th grade classroom is “Democracy is the art of disciplining oneself, so that one need not be disciplined by others.” Seventh graders need to hear that, but so do adults.
This, I think, goes further than simply not breaking the law to avoid getting arrested. In a perfect world, one would not need laws at all to keep its citizens from causing harm to themselves or one another. However, many adults are like their children and cannot discipline themselves. Therefore, we need laws to protect everyone.
We have citizens who seem to think that the universal laws of civility and common decency do not apply to them; that they are in some way exempt from good behavior. This is why our government is busily making up new laws everyday to cover that which should be common sense. We are apparently unable to discipline ourselves or our children and, therefore, we must be told what we can and cannot do. This is why, slowly but surely, every freedom we have will eventually be so constricted that the definition of the word “freedom” will have to be rewritten.
We have so many more laws, now, that protect the criminal rather than the victim. In the scenario where someone breaks into a man’s home and threatens his family and his property, the man should be able to defend himself, his family and his property, with any means available to him, without being sent to jail or fined if he happens to hurt or kill the intruder. The intruder knew his risks and did it anyway. It is only this lame interpretation of the law that impedes real justice.
Government has even begun to tell parents how to raise their children. From teaching sex education to elementary and middle school children to informing people that spanking is inappropriate discipline, government is stepping into the once-sacred parental arena. Our government does this because, not only are there parents that fail to teach their children the birds and the bees or anything else that should be considered non-academic, but there are also parents that think walloping the daylights out of a child should be interpreted as a spanking. The more laws that are written, the more rights will be impinged upon by our government, because we cannot manage to discipline ourselves or our children effectively.
The character of a person is assessed by how he behaves when nobody is judging him. In other words, you must judge yourself. If you are ever unsure about a moral dilemma, you can always repeat my mantra to yourself: Just because you can, doesn’t mean you should.