Where does a person’s freedom begin and another’s rights end? We live in a bizarre era where for many, freedom reigns sweetly and for many others, it is a foreign concept reserved for those in distant, strange lands. 

The past century has witnessed our ancestors’ sacrifices and tremendous efforts in bestowing many of the freedoms we enjoy today. That women can vote and be leaders in many countries; that people from all walks of life, all ages and colors can take to twitter and facebook to communicate freely; that we can travel all over the world to immerse in different cultures, societies, food and traditions… all of these freedoms were hard fought and wonderful aspects of modern life.

With these and many other freedoms though, there also comes heavy responsibility to ensure that in exercising individual freedom, we are not then overstepping another vital freedom- the right to believe what we believe without being mocked and harassed.

Back in elementary and middle school, most of us were taught by parents and teachers that if we can’t say something nice, don’t say anything at all. Then somewhere in high school (or nowadays it starts way earlier), taunting, teasing, bullying enters the picture. It’s perfectly fine not to like someone. It’s perfectly fine to have an opinion. But where do we draw the line of having the freedom to not like someone and then taking it to another level to bully and harass? That’s a two-way street. And isn’t what’s going on in the global political-religious scale just high school shenanigans amplified?

Maybe I’m in the minority here and maybe I’m the crazy one. But I really miss the days when having respect for others’ feelings, caring for others, trumped the freedom to spew every little thought and opinion we have, forcing it down others’ throats just because we can. When did freedom become equivalent to the right to mock others’ deep rooted personal faiths? When did freedom translate to the right to make others feel like less than the dirt you walk on, to bash the very foundation of who someone else is just because you don’t agree with their sexual orientation, religious faith, political views or otherwise?

Isn’t the very foundation of freedom the fundamental right as a human being to be simply, wholly who we are without fear of persecution? Why is it so damn hard for all of us to just respect each others’ differences and allow each other to be? Isn’t that what each of us wants? To be who we are and to live in peace without others bothering us? So why would we then go and bother others?

Ask yourself this the next time you’re about to mock and belittle someone else for who they are. Turn the tables around and see how you like being on the receiving end of such harassment and bullying when you are just being you.