Harrison Bergeron: The Qualifications For Human Rights

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The Qualifications for Human Rights
Woven deeply in the American identity is the belief that all humans have rights. This was officially penned in one of the most significant documents in American history. In 1776 Jefferson wrote, “All men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, among these are Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness” (Jefferson, 1776/2014, p. 108). After experiencing a series of injustices inflicted upon the early American colonists by the British parliament, the colonists recognized the importance of human rights, and sought to establish a government that would protect those rights. The founding fathers of America believed in the significant of including the rights given
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After the women’s rights movement, Americans agreed that women should have equal opportunities, and should not be limited to only raising a family and tending the home. After the civil rights movement Americans asserted that the color of a person’s skin should not determine their inherent worth or value. These cultural changes, though not easy, were necessary, and good. However, there is a level when excessively redefining what is culturally and legally accepted can be dangerous. In his short story Harrison Bergeron, Kurt Vonnegut establishes what life is like when all people are “equal.” Vonnegut states, “They weren’t only equal before God and the law. They were equal in every which way” (VONNEGUT). Vonnegut portrays how forcing everyone to be the same creates a dystopian culture that is doomed to cause suffering for the citizens, viewing people with differences the bane of cultures existence. In order to enforce extreme equality, a certain level of IQ, beauty, and talent must be maintained across the entire culture, with no one falling above or beneath the certain level. If one person begins to naturally excel in any one area, handicaps must be given to them to maintain the certain level that equality exists in. To illustrate this, Vonnegut suggests that people do not compete in their society, they merely maintain their complacency. One of Vonnegut’s characters suggests what would happen if he tried to make his handicap less daunting, saying “If I tried to get away with it, then other people’d get away with it—and pretty soon wed be right back to the dark ages again, with everybody competing with everybody else” (VONNEGUT). To preserve the mediocrity of the society, all people understood that there were handicaps in place to ensure that no competition

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