Szyperski: The greedy rightWritten by Shannon Szyperski | | firstname.lastname@example.org
Like many people across the U.S., I was inspired by the recent Jon Stewart interview of Malala Yousafzai. She is a Pakistani activist who was shot in the head by the Taliban for her outspoken stance on educational rights for women. More so, Yousafzai is a courageous, extremely well-spoken 16-year-old with a gift for verbalizing her desire for peace in a simple, poignant manner.
As the young woman spoke about the denial of education for women in her corner of the world, I began to contemplate the value of my rights as an American. I quite suddenly comprehended just how much my 37 years without feeling slighted because of my gender is worth to me. In the face of another’s human rights deficit, I was able to fully recognize my own abundant wealth of privilege.
I then started thinking about all of the complaining we do day in and day out in this country, and I became incredibly disappointed in us. What in the world are we grumbling about?
A woman across the globe is shot for seeking out education while we experience a decades-long, female-slanted higher education gender gap, and we still find it in us to scream injustice for our own situation. Our screaming should be not for ourselves, but for those still lacking such basic entitlements.
Equal rights for women are but an example of our ongoing pursuit of privilege perfection. We will not rest until each individual is afforded every inalienable right we can think to claim. The problem is that one American’s idea of entitlement utopia seems to be another American’s entitlement dystopia. One person’s freedom of religion butts heads with another’s freedom from religion and we’re not sure who is in the right.
The point we often miss is that we have the luxury of focusing on things like semantics and what ornamentation we care to look at as we drive by public buildings during the month of December. As our family’s pediatrician explained about hepatitis A immunizations — we have a handle on many of the bigger issues, so now we’re going after the more minor offenders.
As I thought about our knack for loudly crying foul over relatively minor offenses, I wondered what right we have to do so while others are truly suffering much more severely at the same moment in time. Our rights are our riches. How can we complain and demand more when we already have so much and others still have so little?
We have no qualms about insisting that those with monetary wealth have a responsibility to appreciate what they have and an ethical obligation to take care of those who are less fortunate, yet we seem to draw different lines when it comes to a wealth of human rights. We tend to think that, regardless of progress, we remain less fortunate. We partake in a certain kind of greed by never allowing ourselves to feel content or completely empowered. We instead wield the empowerment we do accept to seek more and more power, just like the politicians and other poster children for gluttony we heartily condemn.
We can try to differentiate the two to keep our consciences clear, but there is as much greed to be found in human rights as there is to be had in monetary riches. Holding financial power to a higher standard than the power of our individual rights only places more value on money than on the human experience. When we are not willing to agree upon a fight-for-your-rights finish line, we are children proclaiming that nothing is ever fair. We fail when we revel in the fight more than we revel in the reward.
One particular sentiment that spoke to me from Yousafzai’s interview was, “We don’t learn the importance of anything until it’s snatched from our hands.” Perhaps we opt for agitation over appreciation when it comes to our rights because we have never truly had them snatched from us. Like those born into monetary wealth, it is difficult to appreciate that which we have been fortunate enough to always know.
Americans live a life of luxury when it comes to basic human privilege. Yes, there are enough rights to go around without us having to give up some of ours. However, do we really want to nitpick about how our rights aren’t shiny enough, aren’t the latest model or how we could use just a few more when others are scraping to get by?
When it comes to basic freedoms, we are the 1 percent. Are we going to continue whining that what we have still isn’t enough or are we going to use our position of privilege for the greater good by helping to build the wealth of those truly less fortunate?
Shannon Szyperski and her husband, Michael, are raising three children in Sylvania. Email her at letters@toledo freepress.com.