Gertrude Himmelfarb, a brilliant observer of society and culture, had this to say about the state of American society many years ago: “The litigious temper of the times is a consequence of the decline of civility and the concomitant proliferation of ‘rights’ — legal rights in place of the manners and morals that once arbitrated disagreements and disputes. In this sense the law has become not so much the aid and abettor of manners and morals as a substitute for them.”
Those who want to focus on “rights” as if they are sacrosanct and exist in a vacuum will instantly jump upon this insightful piece of reality. Do they truly believe that the mere fact that a person has the right to do something absolves that person of the repercussions of exercising that right, particularly when they push the limits beyond reason?
The answer is “yes.” That is precisely what they believe, because nothing is as important to these folks as their own desires. It’s okay, they say, to have a “society” as long as what’s good for the many does not interfere with what’s good for “me.”
Such a philosophy makes it impossible to maintain a society that, by definition, requires individuals to sacrifice a “few” of their abundant rights for the good of the many, or for a few, or even for one. For example, maybe Dan doesn’t have to remind his friend Julie at her mother’s funeral that her mother had too much to drink over the last three decades, even though he has the right to do so.
Personal selfishness and the assertion of individual rights to the exclusion of what is good for the whole of society, or parts of it, is a recipe for societal collapse, and we see substantial movement toward that frightening possibility every day.
And there is likely no better example of this than the atmosphere surrounding the nomination and confirmation hearing of Judge Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court. Such behavior has been on the increase in recent years, and peaked – hopefully – in this disgusting display of individual rights being taken to their ridiculous extreme.
I’m not arguing here about the nomination itself, or whether the judge should have been confirmed or not, but about the crazed behavior of those poor, misguided souls who not only oppose the confirmation, but who do so from a position of ignorance of civics and fairness, and the idea that they can do as they please.
The First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution guarantees us “the freedom of speech … and the right of the people peaceably to assemble.”
None of which guarantees anyone the right to say anything they want at any time or at any place, or do anything they want in the name of free speech, and it specifically limits assembly to being peaceable.
It does not, for example, encourage people to attend a formal proceeding of the U.S. Senate or the House of Representatives, or a function of a committee thereof, and scream and interfere with the conducting of a formal process.
It also does not protect a group that confronts a peaceable assembly and attempts to intimidate the group, or worse to commit violence against its members, such as what the fascist Antifa gangs do, particularly when private property is destroyed. Prosecution is needed.
Many of these folks are factually challenged, having insufficient knowledge of our system and how it works.
The #MeToo movement is prime territory for serious errors. In response to inexcusable sexual assaults against females, society has largely accepted an accusation as truth. Many times – perhaps most times – such an allegation is true and accurate, but not always.
Let’s travel to Zelienople, Pennsylvania, where five female schoolmates accused a high school boy of sexual assault on two separate occasions in a 27-page complaint filed against him. One instance was said to have occurred at the Zelienople Community Pool where he worked, and the other at a private home.
The boy was fired from his job at the pool, endured multiple court appearances, was placed in a juvenile detention facility and also in home detention, was subjected to months of bullying from kids at school, had his reputation forever damaged, and faced the possibility of criminal penalties.
After some time had passed, some of the girls admitted that they had conspired to mount false accusations against the boy.
In this instance, some of the worst that could happen did happen. Fortunately, the boy’s parents have taken action to deliver justice to the parties who slandered their son, and to hopefully restore his reputation.
They have filed a civil lawsuit in U.S. District Court in Pittsburgh against the Seneca Valley School District in Butler County (which did nothing after learning that the charges were false), District Attorney Richard Goldinger, and the parents of the five teenage girls who falsely accused the boy of sexual assault.
Perhaps some criminal statutes were also breached.
Let us hope for this unfairly damaged family that all of these scoundrels are severely punished. Perhaps the news of severe and just punishment against false accusers will serve to dampen future false accusations.