There’s an old saying that states if one person’s rights and freedoms are trampled with impunity, then no one’s rights are safe. If we, as a society, stand idly by and let freedoms be desecrated, then we’re all just standing in line to have our rights revoked next. In such a land, no man is truly free, instead, we're all just living off of borrowed time.
The idea is that we’re supposed to stand up for the rights of others, including those we don’t know and don’t agree with, to protect our own liberties in the face of oppression. Though it's definitely a significant and noble concept that has an importance which can not be understated, the notion has a flip side that’s seldom explored and, sadly, often ignored.
For, if we have an obligation to stand up for the rights of others, it is equally important that we stand up for our own. After all, how can we ever hope to effectively stand up for strangers if we refuse to do so for ourselves. Worse still, how can we ever hope to enjoy our rights when we refuse to play an active role in protecting them.
Yet how many times have we taken a wrongdoing simply because we don’t want to deal with it, we don’t feel like fighting or it’s just plain easier to let it go? Even though we all have to pick our battles, it never ceases to amaze me how many people refuse to stand up for themselves, even though their rights are directly tied to the freedoms of everyone around them.
A lot of this is because we’re in a society that values selflessness and frowns upon anything perceived as being selfish. We want people to keep their heads down, be quiet and roll with the punches. We look at society as a machine and we don’t want anything to interfere with its workings.
However, we quickly forget that injustice rarely stops at one person and that by protecting our rights, we can protect the rights of others as well. After all, if we don’t stop the infringement, it will just continue to roll on through to the next person and the next, until someone stands up to it.
Sometimes the more selfless thing to do is to stand up for ourselves, to put forth the effort in protecting ourselves from an injustice to prevent it from happening to anyone else. Sometimes the effort we spend fighting for our own rights can save countless others from a similar fate.
So yes, we must stand up for others whenever possible, we must defend the rights of those we’ve never met and never will see. However, we must also protect ourselves. Security, in every respect of the word, starts at home and looking at it solely in terms of the big picture makes it far too daunting a challenge to tackle.
The real battle is going on right now and the time to take a stand is upon us all. Whether we choose to fight or roll over will not only determine our future as a person, but our destiny as a people. And that destiny, good or bad, is what our children and our children’s children will inherit. If we can’t do it for ourselves, we have to do it for them.
There simply is no alternative.