Its My Right!

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I have been writing a lot about my canning kitchen lately, and not so much about other things that rattle around in my head. Today, I want to write about responsibility.

When my children were on the cusp of becoming teenagers, someone asked me if I wanted to raise my children to “be happy”. I thought for a minute and replied, “No, I want to raise responsible adults.” I believe that a responsible person has the tools not only to be comfortable with his or her own behavior but to contribute a positive environment for others. I believe that accepting responsibility for one’s actions is a vital component to exercising one’s rights.

I chose to write about this today because as an expat, I am close enough to the US to be concerned about what happens there, but far enough to see the societal hegemony and the Machiavellian workings of the media there.

Like many Americans, I can clearly remember exactly where I was on September 11, 2001. Driving in my pickup to class at Chico State, I heard the live broadcast as the planes hit the World Trade Towers. I thought it was a broadcast hoax, much like the War of the Worlds broadcast in the 40’s. (Not that I can remember that.) It wasn’t until I arrived at class that I realized it was an actual horrific happening.

In the years since, I retired here to Baja. I have written for two local newspapers oriented toward American expats. For one I wrote a local gardening column. The other, however, was like much of the US media, a scandal rag. The editor adhered to the US media mantra, “If it bleeds, it leads.”  So entranced with this idea, the editor eventually found it impossible to balance scandal reporting and enthusiastic advertisers. I had long since decided that irresponsible reporting was not for me.

I am first in line to respect the rights of any human being. I try very hard to view things on a global scale, not just an “American” viewpoint. Yes, the US constitution has “inalienable” rights, but with those rights there must be responsibility.

Just because one has the “freedom of speech”, one does not have the right to use it indiscriminately or selectively to injure others. That most powerful right carries with it the responsibility to be aware of the ramifications of that “speech”. The US media, as well as many Americans, seem to have lost track of this responsibility somehow. There is a definite line between responsible reporting and scandal mongering. I see this every day when the US media chooses to report on the violence that occurs in Mexico without offering an equal or greater exposure to the beautiful and pleasant aspects of this lovely country.

I am saddened to see that once again the US media is exercising its penchant to report in an irresponsible manner. There is a pastor of a tiny church in Florida who has received an inordinate amount of publicity for threatening to exercise his “rights to freedom of speech and religion”, by burning copies of the Koran. Instead of just being a small time radical ranting in a small area of Florida, this person and his threats have been elevated to a global incident. If the US media had not latched onto this threat and elevated it, would this have become such an international problem?  If this pastor had for a moment taken into account his responsibilities that accompany his rights to freedom of religion and speech, would he even have fomented this threat?

In this time of global unrest, I think that everyone must think globally and take universal responsibility for their actions. Just because one country has a constitution that guarantees “inalienable rights” to its citizens, does not mean that those citizens or their media outlets have the global right to disrespect others.

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