There are no rights in nature. Rights are products of societies, designed to protect and promote valued aspects of our humanity. They are among the finest and most useful political ideas we have: they enshrine our most basic liberties, and provide us with a language for thinking about justice and a means of relating those liberties to the operation of law. But language can be twisted and distorted, and our rights have always been vulnerable to political expediency, to ideology or cynicism, and to our own complacency. The protection of our liberties requires, as much as ever, our optimism, and it requires absolutely our attention.
Peter Hobbs is the author of the novels The Short Day Dying and In The Orchard, The Swallows, and of a collection of short stories, I Could Ride All Day in My Cool Blue Train. He's presently a writer-in-residence for the literacy charity First Story.