The Right to Not Be Offended Does Not Exist

One of the more interesting aspects of growing older is the ability to reexamine your own reality. To understand just what went wrong in life and to try to fix it in some small way before you leave this Earth. Of course, if you are lucky you come to this conclusion with a few decades left to your corporeal endeavor and so begins a journey anew. The journey consists of understanding that in life, in a true democratic society, people simply do not have a right NOT to be offended. People do not have a right to impose their beliefs on others. People do not have a right to use their beliefs to deny another’s humanity. People also do not have a right to belong to a group simply because they demand access. Society is a balancing act. It is acknowledging what is the paramount issues, rights and acceptable behavior. Society is in flux. It is constantly changing. Now is change always for the better? Sometimes and sometimes not. Change’s outcome depends on the purpose, implementation and whether society was truly broken in the first place.

The American statesman Daniel Patrick Moynihan once said, [people] “are entitled to their opinions, but they are not entitled to their own facts” [even if they think they can make it up as they go along]. It doesn’t matter whether the opinion is based on facts or reality, but it is their opinion. Do opinions annoy, hurt, cause consternation? Of course. That is the actual point of an opinion. To decide what is important to a person and to hold fast to that belief. And belief happens to be the watchword. Belief does not have to be supported by fact. Otherwise there really would be no religion in this world. Miracles, prophets, God and the like are all manifestations of the human mind trying to make sense of the universe. Those that still hold to religious beliefs do so out of conviction and sheer faith.

But what happens when that faith or political persuasion  conflicts with society? What do we do then? Do we whine, stomp our feet or tantrum? Well some of us do. The problem that we have is not that people are entitled to their beliefs. The problem is when these beliefs conflict with society’s purpose. But what is that purpose? What are those beliefs? First understanding where society stands is important to understanding where society is going. Ultimately the question is where is that line to be drawn?

Hillel, is a pro-Israel Jewish college campus group. (Some might say that Hillel has generally forgotten their raison d’etre, but that is an issue for another day.) Their purpose is to not only promote Judaism among Jewish college students, to provide a haven for Jewish collegiates in a college atmosphere, but to support the right of the Jewish people to exist in their ancient homeland. Hence Hillel is a Zionist organization. Now, which form of Zionism, secular, religious, socialist, free-market, it doesn’t really matter, but it is a belief that the Jewish people, as all people on the face of the Earth, have a right of self-determination. That’s it in a nutshell.

The Swarthmore Hillel, nevertheless decided to allow anti-Zionists into the mix of organizations that are allowed access to their campus Hillel.The national organization said…”not so fast…no, no,no you can’t do that.” In response these Swarthmorian students wrote how they were generally butt-hurt by the rejection and resented that their grand design of the meaning of a Jewish organization was rejected. There was so much whining involved that you waited for some Swarthmorian  to hold their breath to try to get what they wanted.

Not certain when the notion of freedom of speech became downgraded. What is it about the younger generation that they think simply because they can say what they think that everyone has to agree with them or its  violation of their 1st amendment rights? Didn’t anyone ever teach them that there is no right to not be offended in the Constitution and that simply because you have an opinion doesn’t mean people need to respect what you say or let you into their house?

What is it about the young that they think its acceptable to let into the tent people that want to burn it down with all the inhabitants inside? Why would any thinking person, someone who has a modicum of sense allow these individuals to have sway over thought, practice and the future? This latest collegiate induced tempter tantrum is not about youthful enthusiasm. This is about youthful self-delusion and delusional self-importance. Honestly these children were awarded too many statues for simply showing up in life without having had to actually accomplish anything.

On the other end of the spectrum of political tantrums is Duck Dynasty. Where in the Constitution does it say you are entitled to be on a television show simply because you can quote the Bible to back up your beliefs? Freedom of religion goes just so far. There is a balancing act that comes in a free society. Duck Dynasty can say whatever they want. People can protest to defend them as well. But where does it say a society has to accept everything in the Bible to run their society? America is not a theocratic nation basing its philosophy of existence on the word out of Sinai or out of Nazareth. Judeo-Christian ethics not withstanding, this nation’s societal makeup  is based upon British common law not two tablets of stone brought down from the top of Mt. Sinai.

Meanwhile this nation went into complete over drive and nearly lost its mind. Apoplectic was more like it. The adult version of holding your breath until you turn blue. Why is it,  if you base your prejudice on the Bible does it make it fine and dandy? Yes A&E has reinstated the Duck commander do to the national outrage. But that was a business, cold hard cash, decision not a philosophical one.

The Constitution may give us freedom of religion. The question is just how far do you want to take it? Now the Bible also allows polygamy, stoning,slavery and the burning of witches. There are people in this world that use their religion to justify terrorism, forced marriage, honor murders, female circumcision, religious persecution  and gender apartheid. Besides what makes anyone person believe that your version of religion is the only valid perspective on the planet? Be careful what you wish for and  for what you advocate. When using religion as the societal deciding factor then the questions become which religion, which tenet, which perspective and which orthodoxy or liberal version. Arguments, fights, war. These complexities are the reasons why the establishment clause is so preeminent in the Constitution.

Society has the right to decide which religious tenets they are going to follow and how much emphasis to place on what is written. Society has the right to adjust itself to modern thought, beliefs and actions. Science teaches us that not everything written in the Bible is sacrosanct and not everything written in the Bible is just, correct or realistic. Meanwhile, there are many dos and don’ts in the Bible. Ask yourself this question then: why out of all the tenets of the Bible is the one about homosexuality the one people latch onto the most instead of the tenets about tithing, charity and the golden rule?

Our society does not stop a person from believing the Bible verbatim. Our society doesn’t stop a person from rejecting the Bible completely. But what we have in society is a confluence of ideas that need to be balanced so that everyone is allowed the right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. The Constitution is the law of the land and we are all supposedly equal before the law. No one religion has the right to impose its beliefs on another and they do not have a right to deny another’s human rights and humanity.

To paraphrase Olive Wendall Holmes, “believe what you want about every issue of the day, but your right to act out your beliefs stops at the tip of my nose.” Society has to have laws to successfully exist. We need rights, wrongs, acceptable behavior and consequences. We need order and acceptance. We need economics, production, commerce and growth in order to survive as a people. What society does is to decide how to implement these structures and how to add everyone into the fold so that we are a functioning, flourishing mix dedicated to our posterity. Otherwise, what exactly is the point?

Who we are as a nation is something we have to decide. Where we are going as a people and as a society is important to our legacy. Was everything that came before us correct? Was everything we see coming down the pike truly needed or a positive notion? What right do you have as an individual to deny the rights you want for yourself to someone else?

Is it what the pontificators call “the culture wars?” No. This isn’t about culture. This is about control. There are too many in society who think that by virtue of how they believe that they are better than other people. Whether Left or Right.  Religious or Nonreligious. When you think you have all the answers that’s when you begin to fail.

About Elise "Ronan"

#JewishandProud ...
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