Rights always accompanied by responsibilities


There were letters in the U-B about lying regarding military service and military awards. One focused on how this is probably an example of fraud. Little discussion appears on whether this and similar behavior by politicians and their supporters though legal (“free speech”) is unethical.

I use the word ethics in the sense of describing behavior and morals in the sense of an underlying code of behavior.

Some argue that our country is governed by certain moral codes, but then they act and support actions that do not agree with those codes. Is lying ethical in our alleged national morality?


For example, if a man wielding a gun comes to my door and says, “I want to kill Joe. Tell me where Joe is!” then lying might be deemed reasonable and even ethical.

Of course, if the gunman adds, “And if you don’t tell me, I will kill you!” then I am in a quandary.

Is it OK to sacrifice Joe to keep one’s self alive? Does this violate any morality sanctioned by the various monotheisms available?

Our courts support political lying or telling half-truths as examples of free speech. But apparently “hate” speech is not supported. Why?

More interestingly, why don’t supposed rights come with obligations and responsibility?

For example, the right to bear arms does not seem to eliminate the obligation to exercise the right responsibly.

Does the right exclude gun registration? Is the obligation to not sell the gun “off limits,” i.e., outside the rules governing legal gun sales, excluded by the right? Aren’t these moral obligations?

And shouldn’t those who own guns be made responsible for the safety of those guns? Maybe the NRA should establish an insurance company for injuries caused by unsecured guns such as where children gain access to guns and then cause death or injury.

I could go on to raise the issue of our collective responsibility to provide universal medical care, but I don’t have enough words to do so in this letter.

None of these issues are ever discussed, yet they all involve ethics, morals, rights, responsibility and our social relationships in a so-called free society. Rights are always accompanied by responsibilities. Let’s discuss this balance and avoid simply demanding rights.

Dick Swenson

Walla Walla


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