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Rights, Privileges And The Military

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Editor’s Note: This should have been included when the column was originally published; it would have cleared up a lot of confusion and misperceptions. Matthew Ridenhour wrote it as a Marine and a political thinker, and as one of this site’s valued House Guest contributors, unrelated to his role as a leader of the local tea party movement. I thought that was clear from the column’s content, which doesn’t include any reference to the tea party.

To be certain, however, Ridenhour is best known in some quarters by his affiliation with the tea party, and some people would filter any comments he makes through that lens. That wasn’t meant to be the case here, and I should have made that clear with a bright line.

It’s also important to note that the column was not written unsolicited. After seeing a letter to the editor that Ridenhour had written to The Charlotte Observer, I asked if he’d be interested in expanding the comments into a House Guest column. He graciously agreed and produced a reasoned and thought-provoking piece, as evidenced by some of the comments and debate it has generated.

Unfortunately, some of those comments have devolved into a personal criticism of the columnist, instead of focusing on the content of the column. I would encourage future feedback to focus on the latter and avoid the prior. We welcome open dialogue, as well as constructive criticism, and look forward to more of each.

Speaking of which, if you haven’t already heard it, give a listen to the podcast from Wednesday night’s House Report on The Pete Kaliner Show. Ridenhour joined us for the discussion, which provided some excellent debate and perspectives on his column.

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There’s an issue in America that I believe is one of the primary underlying causes for our debt, frustration, and disenfranchisement: the growing sense of entitlement. The military’s “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” (DADT) policy is not immune to this raging disease. Since the Clinton administration, homosexuals have been allowed to serve in the military, so long as they are not openly homosexual. In recent years this has come under increased scrutiny and hostility from the LGBT community, as they have fought to serve as openly homosexual servicemembers.  The claim is that they have a “right” to serve openly. But do they really?

To understand rights and privileges, one must first understand a little of our nation’s history, and from where we derive our rights, as set forth in the Constitution. (I know, I’m a crazy right-winger talking about the Constitution again. We have a knack for that.) Our rights in America are not granted by our government; instead they are endowed BY OUR CREATOR, and are to only be protected by our government. The founders had studied Lockean and enlightenment philosophy, and believed that our laws should be based on Natural Law—that is, universal law which is derived from man’s relationship with God, and given by God to man. There is no law which supercedes Natural Law. So what does this have to do with rights? Rights stem from Natural Law, and are protected by government.  Life, liberty, the right to bear arms, freedom of assembly – these are all examples of rights protected by the Constitution. The problem in America is that we have gotten our rights confused with our privileges.

Privileges are granted by authority, to be used freely so long as one behaves responsibly. A parent may grant a teenager an 11 p.m. curfew; that is obviously not a right which could be upheld in law, but rather a privilege granted to the teen. Should the teen receive a bad report card, that privilege may be rescinded. The problem with America is that we have created so many entitlement programs (some created by government, some created in our own minds), that everyone feels they are owed something.

Entitlements have become confused with privileges, and privileges have become confused with rights! Right to have a job, right to own a car, a right to a college education, a right to free housing, a right to join any organization one chooses …none of these are rights guaranteed by the Constitution, and to misnomer them as rights is a disservice to our very real and very hallowed rights.

While I applaud the patriotism of the LGBT community, and their willingness to serve our nation, I take issue with the assertion that they have a “right” to serve openly. They already have the privilege, just as I do, to serve in the military. I have no “right” to stay in the military if I were to grow my hair long or get a tattoo on my face. Likewise, they have no “right” to serve openly. Any of those examples are actions which, if taken, will have the privilege of serving in the military revoked.

The guidelines for joining an organization, whether it’s the military, Boy Scouts, a church, or a flag football league, should be left in the hands of those currently in the organization. Who has a better perspective than the Joint Chiefs regarding the effects of administrative changes to the military? Changing the DADT policy will undeniably change the structure, morale, and composition of our military. Should not deference be given to military commanders regarding whether homosexuals are allowed to openly serve? It is a decision which will have effects on their organization; it should be their decision to make. Not by judges, lobbyists, or a public that gets confused between rights and privileges.

One thing we as Americans need to remember is that your rights do not supercede mine, nor do mine supercede yours. Our founders did not intend for us to be a nation of crybabies clamoring to get our piece of the pie. We were all told since childbirth, “life’s not fair.” But why is it we as adults seem to forget that? There are people who will not be able to get a driver’s license. Not everyone will have a college education. Every organization is not going to be welcoming to you. Those are cold, hard, truths, but they are truths nevertheless.

As soon as we understand that each of us is not entitled to everything our heart desires, then the sooner we will learn to be content. Maybe then we can learn to live within our means, limit the size and role of government, and reduce the nation’s entitlement programs. The alternative is no less than continued discontent, more national debt, and further erosion of our true, core rights.

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