Let”s talk about self-determination. We acutely feel the need to be ourselves, to make our own decisions and in doing so, to define who we are. The phrase is used by many groups to defend their agendas: The rights of the handicapped and the elderly, the necessity of racial separatism, pro-life as well as pro-choice and the battling of countries and nations. I think we can agree that in an ideal world self-determination should be a fundamental right.

The problem arises when one group”s right to self-determination conflicts with another”s. If one body”s political aspirations include the demolition of the others, that is where the line is drawn on the right of self-determination. The solution, as John Stuart Mill would have it, is to allow people to do whatever they want as long as they do not harm anyone else a debatable system, but useful here on principle.

In the period of the Revolutionary War, Americans felt that the British were usurping their right to self-determination by giving them no say in shaping the tax policies, nor allowing them to lobby against oppressive rules such as the Townshend Acts of 1767. Americans tried civil disobedience, but when that failed, attacked the military presence. To secure self-determination in such a way is valid because its method attacks the military and its goals do not include the destruction of its “oppressor,” rather simple separation.

These are the rules. Any deviation from these lines such as attacking civilians and speaking out against others” rights to exist must be dealt with swiftly and powerfully. The self-determination of those who wish to destroy is not a right. This is not a question of sacrificing one for many, but rather of doing our best to preserve every non-harmful person”s liberties.

Rachel Roth

In Passing views are those of individual members of the Daily”s editorial board, and do not necessarily represent the opinion of The Michigan Daily.

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