The Times-Independent

Rights and responsibilities

My7 View

My mother long ago taught me that if you can’t say something nice about somebody, don’t say anything at all.

Mike Duncan

I suspect she was talking about a dinner guest who retrieved watermelon slices from the appetizer platter with her fingers instead of a toothpick rather than JFK, whom my father detested for no reason I could ever discern other than he was a wealthy Catholic Democrat and not a poor farm boy Republican Presbyterian like himself.

Then again, the Republican Party back in those pre-Tea Party days was a different critter. I wonder what Mom would think of Marjorie Taylor Greene and Tucker Carlson if she were here now.

Well, here we are together all sitting on the floor, as my kids sang in pre-school. The 2024 election is still a year and a half away, and like a toilet bowl that refuses to completely flush I note Donald Trump has resurfaced once again.

I know because yesterday I saw a burly dude wearing a somber black T-shirt. It had the requisite American flag on a shoulder and the words “MANDATE FREEDOM” (did the irony escape him?) in 64-point font, in sparkling white, of course, to symbolize “good” (think the Lone Ranger) to ensure that other pedestrians could read it 14 parking spaces back up the road.

Best of all was the AR-15 underneath the slogan, again in white. At least he wasn’t carrying one — you know, small mind, big finger. Scary combination.

Freedom, like sex, is one of those tricky multiple-meaning words. Here, it means “the power or right to act, speak, or think as one wants without hindrance or restraint.” Unfortunately, the front of his shirt didn’t say the obverse, which has sadly gone out of style: “Every right comes with a responsibility.” A famous example is “Your freedom to swing your fist ends at my nose.”

More subtly, as Helen Lewis reported in and political strategist Anthony Pedicini related to her, speaking of Ron DeSantis and Florida, “I lost my mother during the pandemic to COVID. My mother chose not to get a shot … Do I blame it on the governor? Absolutely not. Do I blame it on my mother? No, she made a (disastrous) choice … But the government didn’t have the right to make that choice.”

Image courtesy of Jarlhelm/Wikimedia Commons

He’s wrong. Mr. Pedicini’s mother didn’t take responsibility. She doubtless exposed people to COVID during the course of her illness. That was the motivation, particularly during early more virulent strains of COVID, for mandating vaccinations.

It’s the same issue as forbidding rebuilding in flood plains, disallowing alcohol and tobacco to minors and requiring measles vaccinations and motorcycle helmets, the latter because public money subsidizes the cost of screwing your bones back together even if your stupidity brought you to the hospital.

If you drive a car, which can be a lethal weapon, you accept your responsibility to take driver education training, get a license, carry insurance and drive safely. Do I really need to add the same thing applies to carrying a handgun? What part of “Live by the gun, die by the gun” don’t you understand?

And don’t even start me on semi-automatic rifles: The Founders would be horrified to see the unintended consequences the Second Amendment has wrought.

Every right comes with a responsibility. Print that on your T-shirt.

Mike Duncan is a Moab resident and former city councilor.