What Exactly IS Freedom?

Been a lot of talk about that thing called ‘freedom’ lately.  Started me thinking about some things.  What is freedom, anyway?  Freedom from what?  Freedom to do what?  Am I free?  Are you?  Are any of us?  And what is the trade-off for freedom, for there is a trade-off, a price to pay for everything, y’know.

I did a bit of thinking about it … and one thing I can say for certain is that we don’t all see freedom in the same way.  There are those, some are friends of mine even, who think freedom means you get to have a gun … any ol’ gun you want, carry it wherever you go … and use it however you want.  To them that is freedom, but wait … if they have that gun, and they can use it when and how they want … suddenly I don’t feel quite so free as I did a minute ago.  And … if my kid gets shot and killed at school by some student whose daddy has an arsenal and he snuck one out to take revenge on those kids he thinks don’t like him … then the people who think owning guns makes them free just tell me, “we send our thoughts and prayers”.  But … what good is that???  I don’t want your thoughts and prayers … they don’t bring my child back!  And then they say, “well, that is just the cost of being free”.  If that’s the cost of being free, maybe it’s time somebody did a cost-benefit analysis.

And then there’s that freedom of speech.  Now, I’m happy that I can write my opinions on this blog, and some may not like them, but I haven’t gone to jail yet, so I think that is my freedom of speech.  And I appreciate it, believe me I do, for I have a sharp tongue and if criticism and words could send you to jail, I’d surely be wearing an orange jumpsuit right now!  But … I never have and never will tell people they ought to go out and kill somebody else.  I never have urged my friends and readers to physically hurt another human being.  It seems to me that there’s a difference between calling Donald Trump or Paul Ryan a fool, and asking people to go out and hurt one another.  I keep hearing that the human race has become so advanced … but frankly, folks, I don’t see it.

On March 23rd 1775, Patrick Henry in a speech to the Second Virginia Convention is reported to have said, “Give me liberty, or give me death”.  The liberty that he was seeking was freedom from oppression, freedom from being ruled by a monarch 4,000 miles away, paying taxes to that monarchy, without having a say in the rules that bound the colonies that would become the United States of America.  Freedom from oppression, and freedom to self-govern.

Freedoms are either from something or to something.  The second amendment to the Constitution of the United States calls for the freedom to ‘bear firearms’.  But, in its present-day incarnation it has been interpreted as the freedom to kill.  The freedom to own an assault weapon that was never … NEVER … intended to be placed in untrained civilian hands.  And by so interpreting that ‘freedom to …”, the freedom from having to fear for one’s life in a school, church or shopping center has been trampled.  When you, Mr. Christian Republican, bought your AR-15, as was your perceived right, you robbed me of my freedom to be safe next time I go out in the same place you go.

In the same vein, when a person uses his freedom of speech to call for my death, as one of my readers did a while back, then that person is robbing me of my freedom to feel safe in my own home.  When a person like Milo Yiannopoulos says, “I can’t wait for the vigilante squads to start gunning journalists down on sight,” and just three days later five people are gunned down in a newspaper office … whose freedom took away whose?

We do not all define freedom in the same way, and until we do, one man’s freedom will be another man’s prison.  The Constitution, as well as other documents such as court rulings have attempted to bring about a uniform definition for ‘freedom’, but there seems to be a disconnect.  The man who has a few billion dollars in offshore accounts believes that he has the freedom to use those monies as he sees fit.  Fair enough, if the money legitimately belongs to him and was not earned off the sweat of others who were under-compensated for their labours.  BUT … how many who have billions actually earned them without trampling the freedoms of others?  Very, very few, I think.  Any?  I don’t know … perhaps Bill Gates?

As many have commented on this blog in the past, and as I myself have said, “your freedom ends at the tip of my nose”.  You like loud music?  Fine, but understand that not all of us enjoy the same music you do and don’t force it on us.  I smoke.  I have the freedom to do so, but I do not have the freedom to blow my smoke in your face, or even to smoke in a public venue where you might be.  If I can accept that I do not have a right to smoke in public, why can you not accept that you do not have the right to carry a gun in public?  Really, which is more potentially lethal?

In this world, in real life, freedom can never be complete, can never be 100%, for if it were, it would be depriving others of their freedoms.  That is a fact of life.  You can be free from a dictatorship, but you can never be completely free from rules, from laws.  Today, as we live under a ‘man’ who claims to make America “great” again, we are finding that for some, the freedoms are being expanded, but for the majority of us this has meant giving up other freedoms.  There comes a point when we must prioritize:  a right to live vs a right to carry a gun in public?  A right to have medical care for a chronic condition vs a right to pay less in taxes?  A right to breathe clean air vs a right to make a profit from mining coal?

Freedom is not an absolute.  It does not come without a cost.  Freedom for all requires compromise.  Think about it.

Be Better …

I did not plan nor want to write a post about the Red Hen.  Or about Kirstjen Nielsen or Sarah Huckabee Sanders and their restaurant choices.  It is ridiculous and a waste of my time and yours.  BUT … there is a bigger issue here and it is an important one:  R-E-S-P-E-C-T.

I do not dislike Sarah Huckabee Sanders, for I do not know her.  Never met her, never had a conversation with her.  I do not like the fact that she perpetuates Donald Trump’s lies, I do not like her denigration of certain members of the press, and I think as far as the job she does as White House Press Secretary, she is without values.  That said, if I saw her eating in my favourite restaurant I would not harass her, would not so much as give her a sidelong glance.  I would either ignore her and leave her to eat in peace, or if I felt I could not do that, I would quietly leave and go elsewhere.  The same applies to Kirstjen Nielsen, Stephen Miller and any of the rest of Trump’s entourage.

U.S. Representative Maxine Waters, a Democrat from California who is, like myself, passionate about causes and often outspoken, added fuel to the fire:

“Let’s make sure we show up wherever we have to show up. And if you see anybody from that Cabinet in a restaurant, in a department store, at a gasoline station, you get out and you create a crowd. And you push back on them. And you tell them they’re not welcome anymore, anywhere. We’ve got to get the children connected to their parents.”

My baser instincts, the part of me that is sick and tired of this circus that surrounds Donald Trump, applauds Ms. Waters, but my head, my intellect, is screaming, “NO NO NO NO NO!!!”  This is not the path to bringing an end to the Trump regime, but only fans the flames that feed the frenzy of his supporters.  Not to mention Trump, whose ignominious response via Twitter was …

“Congresswoman Maxine Waters, an extraordinarily low IQ person, has become, together with Nancy Pelosi, the Face of the Democrat Party. She has just called for harm to supporters, of which there are many, of the Make America Great Again movement. Be careful what you wish for Max!”

Never mind that Ms. Waters’ IQ is almost certainly far above Trump’s and never mind that she did not call for harm to anybody and did not even mention his supporters. And never mind, even, that no other president in the history of this nation has ever spoken in this manner in public. What his supporters and others will hear is what Trump said, even though it is not true.  This is not a time when people who slavishly follow Trump are seeking facts, but a time when they believe what comes from his mouth.  Period.

There are just over four months until the mid-term elections and if Democrats have any hope of taking a majority in either or both chambers of Congress, we … all of us … are going to have to act better.  The Republican Party, such as it is today, has very low standards of behaviour, but if Democrats lower themselves to those standards, I can guarantee you that all is lost.

Stephanie Wilkinson, the owner of the Red Hen restaurant who asked Ms. Sanders and her party of 7 others to leave, was wrong.  She did so in a respectful manner, and she did so with just cause, however she was still wrong.  I am appalled that the Supreme Court recently affirmed the rights of the baker who refused to bake a wedding cake for a same-sex couple.  If you have a business, you serve your customers … all your customers.  I would hold Ms. Wilkinson, though I understand her reasons, to the same standard.

Maxine Waters is also wrong, though again, there is a part of me that would love to applaud her words, but I cannot.  Nearly every day I sit with this baby Dell on my knee, writing about values, about humanitarianism, criticizing ‘the other side’ for their lack of values, for their vulgar speech & actions, for their intolerance of those who may be different than them or have different ideas.  So how can I condone or praise the actions of Maxine Waters or Stephanie Wilkinson when they are acting in the very manner I am railing against?

I have a confession of my own.  This morning, one of the people who mow and trim the lawns in my apartment complex chopped down our sunflowers with a weed whacker.  Every year since Miss Goose was about knee-high, she and I have taken joy in planting sunflowers in our tiny postage-stamp front yard.  We lovingly tend them and watch them grow, squeal with excitement when the first one shows its beautiful yellow face.  And in less than 10 seconds, they were gone.  My confession?  I flew out the door in a rage and forced myself to stop a few feet short of the worker, else I would have strangled him.  Through tears and with fury I called him every name that came to mind, and acted, in general, like a 2-year-old.  Then I came inside, sat down on the stairway and cried for 30 minutes.  I had every right to be angry, to be hurt, but I did not have the right to launch a venomous attack on the man who was only doing what he thought was his job.  It was not one of my prouder moments.

This is what the past two years have done to us all, but … we are better than this.  We must be better than this, else Donald Trump and his supporters will have the last laugh.  Hate the behaviours, the ideology, the attitudes if you will, but for the sake of this nation, for all of our sake’s, do not emulate them.  Rise above what you see on the news and in the streets every day.  Be better.