At least daily there is something in our news media about someone who justifies doing or not doing something by claiming Constitutional rights and freedoms. I don’t recall ever hearing them talk about responsible exercise of rights and freedoms. I suppose that should not surprise me. Freedom and responsibility often seem to be viewed as opposites. Freedom is something to be loved and treasured; responsibility, not so much. Far too many of us seem to have forgotten/ignored the fact that our rights and freedoms are there for the common good — for us collectively maybe more than for us individually.

When I was a child my idea of how the world works went like this: When I grow up, I will do whatever I want and nothing will happen. Fortunately, it doesn’t work that way. I am expected to exercise my rights and freedoms without taking away, or preventing, others from exercising theirs. If I ignore this expectation, it may not go well for me. There are also formal legal codes, following from the Constitution, that elaborate what we may and may not do in exercising rights and freedoms, and that specify consequences for doing things that are not allowed.

Like it or not, we are responsible to, and for, each other for what we do in exercising rights and freedoms. I hope that all of us will choose to act responsibly, for the common good.

Tim Harris


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