While I’ve never pondered what percent of the great questions of the universe I can answer, occasionally I stop to consider one or two of these questions. Some can be clarified through scientific or historical research. But many cannot.
This is my most recent dilemma. Where do I begin and you end? Or where do you end and I begin? Here’s how that looks. We’re in a crowded airport terminal and I am seated next to a gum chewer/popper. As someone who detests the sound of gum being cracked or popped, do I have the right to ask you to desist? Most would say no. If there’s a problem, I own it. Accordingly, my best option is to get up and find another seat. Does that process/situation change when we are seated next to each other on our flight? The majority would say that my neighbor has as much right to orchestrate her gum chewing as I have to end it. Do I ever have the right to say something?
Change it slightly and there’s a child kicking your seat. In my view, that’s a condition that I shouldn’t have to endure, especially because I believe that action to be more of a dysfunction than a prerogative. As a parent and educator, that behavior is always worthy of being corrected.
Here’s where it gets messy. You are sitting next to someone you know at a concert or play. This person is sprawled all over his or her seat and part of yours. Do you take one for the team and suffer through it or jokingly indicate that your space has been encroached?
It’s only when we bring this type of issue into a broader context that it takes on greater significance. Do we have the right to exercise free speech anywhere, at any time? Can you justify yelling at someone down a hotel hall at 3:00 am, without concern for those who may very likely be sleeping?
In this wonderful land of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, I wonder if we sometimes stretch the boundaries of what we should be able to say or do, regardless of how it affects others. Does your right to speak about whatever you choose at whatever volume in any venue take precedence over my right not to hear it? The easy answer is yes, unless I am unable to leave your vicinity.
You’re welcome to extrapolate as you choose. We have people whose dogs bark at all hours. We also have those who have the Constitutional right to shoot guns where and when they choose, no matter who is around. How do I posit the right to make certain that I don’t get shot? Shalom.
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