PERSONAL RIGHTS: Where Do They Begin and Where Do They End?
An issue that continues to come up is personal rights: where do they start and where do they end. The most recent example of this in my personal life is smoking.
The people who had lived next door to me for the last five years moved out. They smoked on their back patio and the cigarette smoke often found its way into my house via the dining room and kitchen windows, so when they were outside smoking, I kept those windows closed and didn’t use my back patio, but I was able to open the rest of my windows. When they moved out, I hoped for non-smoking neighbors.
A few days after the new neighbors moved in, I was laying in my bed with my 5-year-old daughter. I smelled something strange in my room. I sniffed her and thought, “why does my child smell like cigarettes?” I shrugged it off, thinking it was all in my mind, but then later I smelled cigarette smoke again in my room. Turns out that the new neighbors smoke in the front and back yards, which sends the smoke directly into all windows except for a tiny window on the opposite side of the house.
So what do I do now? It is their right – in Atascadero, but not if we lived in San Luis Obispo – to smoke in their own yard. However, isn’t it my right to not have the toxic fumes in my house? My grandmother died five years ago from lung cancer, and she never smoked a day in her life. My grandfather did, however. Actually all my grandparents but her smoked, but she was the only one to get lung cancer.
The first thing I did was close my windows, which means that my house stays pretty warm, even when it cools off at night and the air conditioner is running. I have found that the majority of the front yard smoking happens while I am sleeping, so it’s not an option to keep the windows open at night.
The next step, which I haven’t done yet, is to meet the neighbors and let them know that their cigarette smoke goes right into our windows, in a nice, non-accusatory manner, and ask for smoking to not occur in the front yard at night.
Personal rights are important, I fully support that, but also fully support that personal rights end when they inflict on the personal rights of others; such as not blaring music or being loud at night.
There are so many examples of personal rights – including personal property rights – one of the most important personal rights that we all have is access to public health care. I wrote several issues ago about how excited I was about the Affordable Care Act. Now, I’m less excited about it; however, I still believe it is a step in the right direction. What will make it great – and make health care more accessible – is to make it universal. Take out the middle man and take the profit out of health care.
Personal rights extend to so many things, and many of which cause conflict. The question that pops up in my mind is how do we approach these conflicts with both sides in mind? I’m a little nervous to approach my new neightbors, but have to remind myself that they do not know that their smoke is floating into my house – or into my daughter’s room. I feel trapped inside my house and must run my air conditioner – or heater – year round in order to stay comfortable and the offending toxins out.