Since the Charleston shooting a week ago, the topics of racism and gun control have controlled the news as well as my newsfeed. This is not a huge change thanks to Texas legislation allowing guns on college campuses and frequent race-related violence—both of which have dominated the news.
Two concrete and recognizable cries have gone up on account of this shooting: get rid of the Confederate flag (particularly in the South Carolina capital) and tighten gun control. In response there has been the discernible responses (though few, by my count) that say, “No, nothing needs to change—it is my right to fly the Confederate flag” or “It is my right to freely possess or carry firearms.”
I may be too generous, here, but I think that both sides agree and understand that we are better off as a nation without these things—particularly the guns. There is no doubt that less guns out there means less violence overall. The difference comes in, however, on the discussion of rights. Those who want to keep their flags and firearms say it is their right, “Though it may be unhealthy, I can do whatever I want.”
The other day, I had a conversation with a friend regarding Republicans and Democrats. It was a terribly civil conversation as we tried to be sympathetic and identify the virtues of both sides. We were specifically discussing their views toward helping the poor and altruism. We decided that what separates Republicans from Democrats (at least the decent representatives from both) is not that Democrats like helping while Republicans hate the poor, but that Republicans want the right to choose how they help (e.g. private giving) and Democrats want to be forced to help so as to ensure someone is doing something.
Undoubtedly there is more to differentiating these two parties, but I think in this specific example Democrats subtly demonstrate their wisdom. They realize they are selfish when left to their own devices, and so they force themselves to do good. They relinquish their rights for the good of others.
Leaving partisan politics all together, I think this idea of relinquishing rights is what we need in these discussions. We must not hold our personal “rights” in such high regard that we become blind to reason and the good of our brothers and sisters. We must selflessly give up what is rightfully ours, so that others may live without harm.