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Where to draw the line.Throughout America's history, there have always been laws that...

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shaniceamoyal... | Student, Grade 11 | eNotes Newbie

Posted November 26, 2010 at 3:50 PM via web

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Where to draw the line.

Throughout America's history, there have always been laws that regulated citizens personal behavior. Today we have laws forcing motorcycle riders to wear helmets, laws that make suicide illegal, and laws against speeding on an empty highway, among many others. Where should society draw the line between personal and political actions? Should society have the right to tell you how to behave on your own time? why or why not?

I'm writing this essay based off the scarlet letter and todays world and comparing the two . Even if you have not read the scarlet letter i still want in input.

If you have read the scarlet letter please state concise examples from the text to back up your answer .

Every opinion counts : ]

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brettd | High School Teacher | (Level 2) Educator Emeritus

Posted November 26, 2010 at 4:06 PM (Answer #2)

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Well, if I take two of the examples you mention there, they deal with driving a motor vehicle of some kind.  I have no problem with these kind of regulations because driving is a privilege not a right, and because public safety is often endangered when people operate a couple thousand pounds of metal in negligent ways at high speeds.  So in that case, it's not as though one person exercising personal freedom does not potentially endanger others, it does.  Suicide being illegal sounds like a silly law on its face, but allows us to legally detain people who may benefit from psychiatric help, at the same time as I tend to believe in my right to choose physician assisted suicide in certain circumstances.

All of this being said, personal morality and behavior are usually better regulated by social pressures and mores, as opposed to law enforcement.  As we saw with prohibition in the old days, and drug use in the modern day, people tend to follow laws they agree with and break the ones they don't, and it's very difficult to enforce.

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pohnpei397 | College Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

Posted November 26, 2010 at 4:37 PM (Answer #3)

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I think that when you are comparing the book to today's society, you shouldn't use examples like helmets and motorcycles.  Hester's "crime" is more along the lines of issues of gay marriage or homosexual conduct.  These are issues where some people think that the actions of the individual undermine society.

The idea behind banning adultery was that particular behavior endangered society.  In those days, the belief was that God would get angry at their society and harm it.  Today, we usually talk in terms of affecting the "fabric" of society.  We worry that allowing gay marriage will start undermining the institution of marriage and that our whole society will suffer because fewer people will get married, more kids will have single parents, etc.

So I think what you need to think about is whether it is justified for governments to tell people what to do if government thinks their behavior affects society.

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kapokkid | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

Posted November 26, 2010 at 5:40 PM (Answer #4)

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I tend to side with the second post, with the problem of Hester's transgression being very different from that of riding a motorcycle without a helmet.  But, if you are going to go with that analogy, I would frame it this way:

In the same way that many people believed that Hester's sin would harm the community, riding motorcycles without helmets does in fact come with great cost to society.  Of course the individual should be able to make their own decisions, particularly once they are an adult.  The problem is that massive costs are incurred by the public once that same person gets in a crash.  Insurance of several kinds is more expensive for everyone because of it, state money gets used up to keep folks alive because so many of them end up in vegetative states...

You get my point.  In Hester's case though, the problem is that it will be more difficult to connect her crime to actual societal problems unless it is a perceived hurt that in turn drives people to be angry with each other, break apart societal bonds, etc.

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shaniceamoyalawman | Student, Grade 11 | eNotes Newbie

Posted November 27, 2010 at 3:29 PM (Answer #5)

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Well, if I take two of the examples you mention there, they deal with driving a motor vehicle of some kind.  I have no problem with these kind of regulations because driving is a privilege not a right, and because public safety is often endangered when people operate a couple thousand pounds of metal in negligent ways at high speeds.  So in that case, it's not as though one person exercising personal freedom does not potentially endanger others, it does.  Suicide being illegal sounds like a silly law on its face, but allows us to legally detain people who may benefit from psychiatric help, at the same time as I tend to believe in my right to choose physician assisted suicide in certain circumstances.

All of this being said, personal morality and behavior are usually better regulated by social pressures and mores, as opposed to law enforcement.  As we saw with prohibition in the old days, and drug use in the modern day, people tend to follow laws they agree with and break the ones they don't, and it's very difficult to enforce.

so what should i compare hester's crime to , that happens in the real world?

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shaniceamoyalawman | Student, Grade 11 | eNotes Newbie

Posted November 27, 2010 at 3:31 PM (Answer #6)

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I tend to side with the second post, with the problem of Hester's transgression being very different from that of riding a motorcycle without a helmet.  But, if you are going to go with that analogy, I would frame it this way:

In the same way that many people believed that Hester's sin would harm the community, riding motorcycles without helmets does in fact come with great cost to society.  Of course the individual should be able to make their own decisions, particularly once they are an adult.  The problem is that massive costs are incurred by the public once that same person gets in a crash.  Insurance of several kinds is more expensive for everyone because of it, state money gets used up to keep folks alive because so many of them end up in vegetative states...

You get my point.  In Hester's case though, the problem is that it will be more difficult to connect her crime to actual societal problems unless it is a perceived hurt that in turn drives people to be angry with each other, break apart societal bonds, etc.

so what should i compare her crime to , that happens in the real world?

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shaniceamoyalawman | Student, Grade 11 | eNotes Newbie

Posted November 27, 2010 at 3:33 PM (Answer #7)

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Well, if I take two of the examples you mention there, they deal with driving a motor vehicle of some kind.  I have no problem with these kind of regulations because driving is a privilege not a right, and because public safety is often endangered when people operate a couple thousand pounds of metal in negligent ways at high speeds.  So in that case, it's not as though one person exercising personal freedom does not potentially endanger others, it does.  Suicide being illegal sounds like a silly law on its face, but allows us to legally detain people who may benefit from psychiatric help, at the same time as I tend to believe in my right to choose physician assisted suicide in certain circumstances.

All of this being said, personal morality and behavior are usually better regulated by social pressures and mores, as opposed to law enforcement.  As we saw with prohibition in the old days, and drug use in the modern day, people tend to follow laws they agree with and break the ones they don't, and it's very difficult to enforce.

so do you agree or disagree that society or the goverment should not dictate the way we live our lives?

Btw thankss for you input : ]

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lrwilliams | College Teacher | (Level 1) Educator

Posted November 28, 2010 at 8:34 AM (Answer #8)

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This is a very tough question to answer. I feel that government has to be involved in cases of public safety or issues that might effect a group of people. However I do not believe they need to start policing morality issues or personal safety issues.

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ask996 | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Senior Educator

Posted November 30, 2010 at 1:49 PM (Answer #9)

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If someone elses choices infringe upon my own life or society as a whole, then perhaps the government should regulate that. People who are involved in accidents in which seatbelts or motorcycle helmets are not worn are sometimes a burden to tax payers. Just because a highway is empty does not mean it will stay that way, so the government should regulate that, so you don't pop up over the hill and run over the teenager crossing the road to his mailbox. Real damage to life and property would result. In Hester's case, no damage was done to life or propert, as is the case with gay marriage, so the question should probably be should the government be allowed to legislate morality?

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mwestwood | College Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

Posted November 30, 2010 at 2:43 PM (Answer #10)

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As post #2 mentions, there are always problems when legislation is passed to control behavior.  Because there were such stringent laws in the Puritan community, the very humanity of the people was denied, and they had to hide their sins.  The greatest fault of the Puritan community is demonstrated with the character of Arthur Dimmesdale who hides his sin because he knows he will be ruined if he confesses. But, because of his hypocrisy, his conscience destroys him internally, anyway.  In contrast, Hester is able to redeem herself and becomes a valued member of the community again.  Her letter is viewed as meaning "able" as she tends the sick and dying.

Man must be allowed his free will; without freedom people die, spirtually or physically, or both, for they are no longer men, but chattel.  Morality simply cannot be legislated.  People must take responsibility for  themselves.  At the end of The Scarlet Letter, Hawthorne urges people to "Be true!  Be true!"

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msmegmaynard | High School Teacher | (Level 2) Adjunct Educator

Posted December 2, 2010 at 5:41 AM (Answer #11)

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Agreeing with the above posts, I feel this is a difficult question to answer. When I first read your question, I could feel an anti-man rant coming on. However, I thought back to my job and the behaviors and attitudes I encounter on a daily basis.

Now, I'm all for personal freedom and keeping the government and laws out of my personal life... to an extent. But I also teach freshmen and sophomores in a high school in a low-income area and I have to wonder, if only privately and never out-loud, how would their lives and perception of education be different if some laws were enforced more strictly (truancy, for example) and how their perceptions of education would differ if they were required to graduate by law. Now, some people would see this as a serious affront to their freedom, but I see it as an investment. The devaluation of education is killing us not-so-slowly.

I suppose what I'm trying to say is that too much personal freedom is what has brought us to where we are now. Look around at the general lack of moral fiber presented in and valued by today's society. Perhaps a few governing laws aren't all that bad. And perhaps a few more wouldn't be the end of the world.

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booboosmoosh | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Educator Emeritus

Posted December 21, 2010 at 9:06 PM (Answer #12)

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Just to add my vote, though you may not now need it, I believe a line needs to be drawn, but my concern rests with who is drawing that line. It's like policing the police. Who can we trust?

My first reaction would be based upon how one person's actions could harm others. If someone's actions can adversely affect someone else, that would seem to make the line easier to draw.

Laws regarding things like suicide, abortion, etc., are hot topics that often cover moral and religious ground, and this is deeply personal territory. There is no easy way to dictate how these lines should be drawn, though I would be more likely to watch out first for those who are underage or mentally incapacitated in some way. After that, I don't see a clear cut answer.

At the same time, if someone is terminally ill and agonizing with every breath, I think drawing the line regarding assisted suicide becomes more difficult, and it is, once again, deeply personal.

Someone earlier mentioned behavior affecting society. This seems like a solid response, but playing devil's advocate, there is little we do that does not affect society in some way: it can be something small or enormous. However, I can imagine a lawyer finding a great deal of grey area in defining what adversely affects society or what does not, and I expect that what adversely affects me may not affect someone else in the same way.

What a great topic for writing and/or classroom discussion.

As long as law makers of integrity and sound judgment draw the lines, it makes it easier, but how do you find these kind of law makers, and are there not always exceptions to the one rule? It seems part and parcel of the human experience that we cannot define everything to fit into a preconceived "box."

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samantha96 | Student, Grade 11 | Honors

Posted September 30, 2011 at 9:43 PM (Answer #13)

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While some laws do restrict what we do they are set for a reason. Laws are made to protect us and to ensure our safety (like most of the laws you provide as examples are designed to do) and while they do put regulations on what we do it will benefit the community and ourselves in the long run. There are also laws designed to benefit us and give us freedom. Such as laws that allow us to own a business, get married and share equal rights. Some people may say that some rules are not fair, but its not as if laws are made overnight. There is a long process and procedure to create a new law and it is designed with the communities greater interest in mind. Without laws the world would be chaotic and most people tend to be dramatic about how horrible the environment they live in is when there are far more people experience worse conditions and living under harder circumstances than us. People should be glad that they are living in a country where everyone shares equal rights and the government and courts care enough to set laws to ensure our safety.

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