March 31, 2010

For Better or Worse, Free to Be You and Me

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On March 15, at 2:30 P.M., I was slated for my Commencement housing lottery slot. For those who are unacquainted, each year Campus Life offers open dorm rooms to the parents and family members of graduating Seniors at a reasonable fee. My sister and dad, who are not self-describing “early birds,” caught no worms. So, to Campus Life’s webpage I went a-groveling, and signed up for aforementioned timeslot. “Location: RPCC Auditorium,” the housing ticket proclaimed.

Kvetch kvetch kvetch. Bitch bitch bitch. Moan moan moan. Shouldn’t Campus Life have been apprised of the fact that ALL SENIORS live somewhere further south than RPCC?!? Gosh, sometimes Cornell really just steams my biscuits, if you dig my jive. I practically felt I had a God-given right not to walk a mile just to spend five minutes in a housing lottery!!

On one of the crummiest days our young spring had yet seen (windy, sideways rain, a chill that makes my one pre-arthritic hip ache), I was ruing my entire walk up, cursing the gods for placing RPCC so far out of the way. When I saw a fellow Senior on North campus and explained to her my housing woes, she half-jokingly suggested I write about it in my next article.

Well, K. THoung, I am going to write about it — because I can. As an Arts and Entertainment writer for the Cornell Daily Sun, gal dang it!, I have a right!

And so this week, I will not be writing about how RPCC is unnaturally far away, but rather, I shall write about the indignant, preposterous — and sometimes, hurtful — assertion of one’s rights.

America: fine country though it may be, loony tunes all over the map act a foo’ on the basis that they can.

Don’t get me wrong:  individual liberty — otherwise stated in Oliver Wendell Holmes’ words, “the right to swing my fist ends where the other man’s nose begins” — is a lovely (and essential) structure for open dialogue within a state. But there are those people who really stretch the boundaries of what their “rights” entail.

Take, for example, Donna Simpson, a six hundred pound New Jersey woman, who aspires to be the world’s fattest living woman. Her dream? To tip the scales at 1000 pounds (that’s one ton). Her quest began in 2007, as a 532-pound woman who birthed a healthy child. She has sent an application to become the “world’s biggest birth mom” in the Guinness Book of World Records, and is additionally attempting to file for “largest living woman.”

What she said was once “just a fantasy” is now quickly becoming reality. Though she does not expect to reach 1000 pounds, a girl can still wish, right? She says, “When you have a 3-year-old daughter and you’re trying to run a household, things like this tend to be a fantasy.” … Sure.

She currently eats 12,000 calories a day to put on as much weight as she can, as quickly as she can. For a point of reference, one pound of fat is roughly equal to 3,500 unspent calories, and Michael Phelps claimed to eat about 12,000 calories a day while he was in Olympic training. (As a side note, it would be awesome to see Phelps and Simpson square off in a daylong eating contest.)

Say whaaaaaaaaat? You would risk a motherless future for your children just to get your name on some record?! A preposterous use of your rights indeed, Ms. Simpson.

(At least somebody is chomping at the bit [literally] to get free health care!)

A second example of a group that abuses their rights-within-reason is the fanatical sect of the modern-day Tea Party.  In my opinion, it is folly that many liberal politicians do not take the Party more seriously as a political and cultural force to be reckoned with (well, at least Obama believes they have “legitimate concerns”). But I half don’t blame liberal pundits for discrediting certain Tea Partiers: These hooligans have perpetrated some reckless, hateful acts that diminish whatever public esteem the party might otherwise enjoy.

A grass roots movement based on ideals of fiscal conservatism and anti-taxation, the Tea Party has grown exponentially since April 2009. The party is self-described as anti-stimulus, anti-bailout, anti-deficit and anti-universal health care. But it is not only the party’s economic alliance that has garnered believers: A gamut of sensational conspiracies has also curried followers.

The Tea Party has claimed, in New York Times reporter Paul Krugman’s words, that Preisdent Obama is “a ‘socialist’ who seeks to destroy capitalism.” According to an article in The Nation, The Tea Party has further claimed that the entire United States is at risk: They have claimed that a totalizing, “Cloward-Piven” strategy is at work within the government — a strategy meant to manufacture and manipulate “public crisis” so as to engender Leftist political dominance.

With such passion-provoking conspiracies at work, it is perhaps little wonder that a Tea Party zealot verbally assaulted a pro-reform demonstrator with Parkinson’s disease last Sunday. The Tea Partier approached the demonstrator and said, “… I’ll pay for this guy. Here you go, start a pot. I’ll pay for you,” after which he shouted, “I’ll decide when to give you money … No more handouts!” (This protestor has since apologized for his actions at the rally and has said that his emotions overcame him.)

No matter how fractured political opinion might be today, I’m quite positive that a verbal assault is a particularly extreme — not to mention, foolish — assertion of one’s First Amendment rights.

The point behind these very different examples is this: great faith in liberty does not an exception make. No matter how strongly you feel you have a god-given right to act or utter, sometimes these indignant expressions can go too far. Often, stretching the boundaries of your rights exposes you as an overly entitled jerk.

In fact, it seems that most people don’t get down with O.D.B.’s* (yeah, you know me!). So please, readers, if you take anything from this article (yeah, right), it’s this: don’t be clowns just because you can. Be considerate of yourself and of others around you.

* O.D.B. = Ostensible Douche Bags