bookmark_borderRights are not the same as “convenience”

Inconvenience. This word is used to describe many things, including:

  • Requiring people to remove their shoes and even clothes while going through airport security, or to pass through full-body scanners that reveal their nude bodies.
  • Requiring people to undergo covid testing or receive covid vaccines.
  • Telling people that they must stay home and banning them from existing in public places such as beaches and parks.
  • Requiring people to provide medical and/or psychological records in order to be allowed to own a gun.

Contrary to the opinions of authoritarian-leaning people, the above things are not inconveniences. They are violations of rights.

People have a right to privacy. People have a right to bodily autonomy. People have a right to move about freely. People have a right to bear arms.

Privacy, bodily autonomy, freedom of movement, and gun ownership are not “conveniences.” They are basic rights.

An inconvenience is having to wait in a long line at the post office, or having to pay for something in cash, or encountering more traffic than usual, or finding out that your train is running late, or experiencing weather that is different than you thought it would be so that the clothing you chose ends up being too warm or too cold.

Taking basic rights away from people is not an inconvenience. It is immoral, it is unacceptable, and it should never happen. It is the epitome of moral wrong.

To refer to violations of rights as “inconveniences” is to warp language so that aggressors avoid accountability for their actions, while the burden of scrutiny and criticism is unfairly placed on their victims. Rights are pooh-poohed as something silly and stupid, their loss dismissed as “no big deal” and something we should just get used to. This enables aggressors to be perceived as holding the moral high ground, while those who correctly object to their rights being violated are portrayed as the problem. We are described as entitled, spoiled, immature, petty, selfish, unreasonable, and lacking in grit and resilience, and criticized for valuing our “convenience” over other people’s safety, security, and health. 

Nothing could be farther from the truth.

And nothing could be more despicable than to frame debates in such a way.

Rights are not a luxury. Rights are not a mere convenience, like an Uber ride or a contactless credit card or a smoothly-running subway system or a mobile app that allows you to avoid waiting in line. Having one’s rights respected is a necessity, without which life is not worth living at all.

Whether people’s rights are respected or violated is a matter of moral right and wrong, not a matter of convenience or inconvenience.