I revisit old experiences and compare their context with more recent ones. The following thoughts developed through a conversation with a cousin. She is from the middle east,, and western educated. We talked about rights. In the United States, people are very attached to the rhetoric associated with their “rights”. They often try to apply American rights in places they don’t belong.
What are these rights, exactly? Where do they come from?
America is one of the wealthiest countries in the world, but has some of the poorest people, wide variety of health problems, diseases, violence and crime. Why don’t people worry more about that instead of the infringement on their rights? I feel the need here to address a recent example highlighting the many ill-conceived opinions about “rights.” Lately, there has been a flood of articles, posts, blogs, and comments about Duck Dynasty’s Phil Robertson’s comments about homosexuality in GQ magazine. A&E temporarily suspended him from the show and an outpouring of internet users had very strong opinions on the matter. A common theme from internet commentators supporting Phil had things to say like: “It’s called freedom of speech” or “Read the Bill of Rights.”
Without delving into any politics or opinions on the gays- let’s focus on FREEDOM OF SPEECH. Again, we revisit the question What are these rights, exactly? Freedom of speech protects you from the government. It’s why we can blame the president and hate on gays ALL DAY LONG on the internet, in magazines, and everywhere in between. Phil Robertson could literally shout what he said from the rooftops, and the government can not prosecute him for voicing his beliefs. The bill of rights has nothing to do with what your employer may or may not allow you to say when you represent them.
Small example: In my company, we have to take a “Professionalism in the workplace” training course every three years. They teach us how to not sexually harass each other and to not talk about politics while at work. Is this a violation of freedom of speech? Absolutely not- its called being a professional with a paycheck. Do you want your paycheck? Don’t say controversial things while you represent a professional organization.
I digress, back to the point. The whole idea is that people are extremely offended and feel rights are violated when their entire conception of said rights is altogether misinformed and uneducated. The subject matter is irrelevant. What are the terms of these rights? You should know what they mean when you feel they’ve been violated. We are a nation full of “the people who cried rights”. This syndrome is so severe, that the attachment follows us wherever we go. Back to my conversation with my cousin in Bahrain- She told me about expats who try to explain and educate her on her rights. The tragic in this is….. when you leave the United States, you are no longer playing by the same set of rules. As a traveler, you ought to know this. They try to explain to her that as a woman in the Middle East who covers her hair, she is oppressed. Meanwhile, they actually know very little about women’s rights or Islamic culture, or its laws.
Below is a photo of me enjoying my rights in Qatar, dressed in red, white and blue on Qatari national day, climbing on top of cars during their parade.
My cousin explained to me, in very brief terms why these conversations bother her. It’s the facts which people choose to ignore or remain ignorant to. They leave the US and never understand that the same rules don’t apply everywhere.
In our culture, women do not share with men. A man can neither tell me to work, nor keep me from working. A man can not access my wealth or my inheritance. My money is mine and mine alone. I don’t even change my name for him. This is the essence of my rights and the laws here. I am protected by the laws of my country and the laws of my religion. Who are you? You are either your father’s daughter or your husbands wife. You can not even choose your own name.
Know your rights and what they mean. Know your surroundings and recognize other people rights. Their rights may not be the same as yours, but they feel just as strongly when their rights are challenged.