“Freedom” may be the most abused, lease understood word in the entire English language. People seeking it don’t abuse it (they can’t – they don’t have it!). Rather, it’s the people who already have it who regularly abuse it – using their freedom to deny other Americans the same freedom. Libertarians define freedom as “you’re not the boss of me”. They epitomize the conservative view that freedom is a one-way street, all benefits. But, that’s not how it is and never has been! Freedom isn’t “free”. It can’t be. All those awesome benefits we all love? They come with equally awesome responsibilities. It’s a package deal.
What do we mean by “freedom”?
Republicans now think “being free” means having the right to be the biggest assholes they can be while using their freedoms to crap all over everyone else’s freedoms. Whether via loosened gun restrictions or “religious freedom” or their bizarre need to control every woman’s body, the right has built its brand on using its rights to deny other Americans theirs. Conservative judges now claim standing where they have none and concerns built on foundations of pure horse shit.
Why? What do conservatives want? Why do they behave like this?
The answer, per conservative icon Bill Buckley, is that conservatives want to stand “athwart history yelling ‘Stop!’ The future terrifies them because it won’t be like the past. And the past was very, very good to them.
America’s founders had a brilliant idea borne of the French Enlightenment: humans governing themselves – no kings necessary. Alas, our founders botched it at the start. Though they signed off on “All men are created equal”, they didn’t mean it the way they needed to. Or should have. Instead, our founders cut a deal with slavery (and another with misogyny). To them, all people were NOT created equal – and therefore were not equally free.
America remains a great idea poorly executed. Serious people understand that individual freedom and collective freedom always will be in conflict with each other. The trick is managing the dynamic tension between them. Benefits can’t outweigh responsibilities. Responsibilities aren’t a burden, they’re essential hard work.
The hard work of maintaining a successful, dynamic democratic republic.
No one has the right to shout “Fire!” in a crowded theater because no society can successfully function that way. Want to cause chaos just because it pleases you? Prepare for the consequences. That’s how adults operate. Freedom isn’t free and can’t be!
Dumb little boys, Libertarians and Republicans insist otherwise. But only where their freedom’s concerned. As for the rest of us – and our freedom? They’re not interested.