America, don’t dismiss the rights of the individual


The religious right and the progressive left have abandoned the liberties of the individual.

Back in 2008, when California residents were voting on Proposition 8 to keep marriage between a man and a woman, I remember asking myself why people felt so entitled to decide what two consenting adults who love each other get to do in life.

I’ve always had issues with the religious right because of that entitlement — and not just with marriage. From deciding whether or not a person can smoke marijuana in their own backyard to deciding what a woman can do with her own body, the religious right feels entitled to make those decisions for other people. In my hometown of Temecula, California, members of the local Christian congregations received enough signatures to prevent a mosque from being built in the area, deciding what religion a person could practice.

The religious right has left a history of establishing a list of rules society must follow — and seek government to enforce those beliefs. This is why I identify as liberal. Liberalism is fundamentally founded on the principle that people should live their own life how they choose, without being dictated by the opinions of others — valuing the liberties of the individual.

However, in recent years, the progressive left has shifted and begun to use the same controlling tactics as the religious right. The progressive left has created its own list of rules and demanded that the rest of society follow as well.

The religious right will seek to ban a video game because it claims it will make teenagers violent; the progressive left will seek to ban a video game because it claims to make teenagers sexist.

If a Christian baker feels that it’s against his or her religion to bake a cake for a gay couple, the government shouldn’t force someone to do something they feel uncomfortable with. If a group of college Republicans invites a controversial, right-wing speaker to address some interested students, the left should combat with civil discussion and protest rather than silencing and acts of violence.

The current political climate is a toxic and divisive one because both sides are seeking to force the other to live with its values. Society, from both sides, is seeking to limit the freedoms of the individual by telling people how they should think and act.

As a liberal, I value the diversity of race, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation and religious beliefs, or lack thereof, but I also value the diversity of ideas — including those I do not agree with.

Government should be limited to protecting the freedoms and equalities of the individual, including protecting those who subscribe to different lifestyles and different ways of thinking — even if that means a person is able to teach their family Christian values while same-sex couples are permitted to marry. Coexistence is possible.

Now, I’m not saying you should be apathetic on issues that you care about.

Stand up for what you believe in. Speak out, protest, vote according to your beliefs and allow your voice to be heard. Just remember the other side has the same rights, too.

The current polarization of every political, economic and social issue is not working. Society needs to relearn how to coexist with and debate differing viewpoints.

Individuals have a right to live life in his or her own way whether or not it subscribes to another person’s values. If America can find common ground, at least on this principle, progress and a more united society is in our future.



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