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Rights and responsibilities

Our times of global uncertainty and crisis require what I believe is a careful distinction between our rights and responsibilities. What triggered this was a social media participant who ranted and raved about social distancing. She moaned about the fact that the closure of so many entities and the requirement to self-monitor violated her civil rights. It’s a shame that she has nothing better to do.

Here’s a simple example of the difference between right and responsibility: Let’s say for this example that I have tested positive for COVID-19 although I am not demonstrating any symptoms. Inadvertently, I have run out of milk (although I have plenty of toilet paper). Do I have the right to visit my local supermarket to get my milk, taking the chance of infecting who knows how many people?

Obviously, I don’t. But my civil rights to visit any store I choose at any time is not the subject at hand. While I do have this right, I do have the responsibility not to be in proximity of those who could contract my virus. And what if I don’t have the virus and don’t show any symptoms? That only barely impacts the answers.

While I still need the milk in this case, I also don’t know with certainty whether or not I have the capacity to infect someone else. The answer is that I will visit my supermarket, wash my hands before and after my visit, sneeze into a tissue or my shoulder and keep at least six feet between me and everyone else.

The situation in which we find ourselves changes all definitions of rights and responsibilities. By all means, I have the right to preserve my civil rights in most cases. But my responsibility to protect the people around me (generally six feet away from me) prevails.

No-one wants the situation in which we find ourselves. Being good-natured, rational and socially conscious is the answer. When all of this settles, the irate female can go where and when she chooses, with my sincere blessings. Shalom.

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