Freedom Is Never “FREE” — It Always Comes With Responsibilities

Pandemics bring clarity. This one has clarified that people who refuse to wear a mask because “We’re not the boss of them” have a five-year-old’s idea of “freedom”. They think freedom is getting to do whatever they want, wherever they want, however they want. If it bothers you or interferes with your rights — or infects you with their disease? That’s not their problem — and anything you do to affirm YOUR rights automatically steps all over theirs. They have plenty of rights. The rest of us? Not so much. Sounds like Libertarians, doesn’t it? And Tea Partiers? And Republicans in general.

My dad was a captain in the Air Force. He was fond of saying “Rank has its privileges and its obligations”. Everyone loves the sugar coating. But that coating’s on a Brussel sprout. And you have to eat that too.

Every freedom — whether to say what you like or love who you like — comes with exceptions. You are NOT free to threaten people with your words. You are NOT free to love people who aren’t old enough to judge whether or not to love you back. You are NOT free to take your legally owned weapon and discharge it at will in public. Without those exceptions to complete and total freedom, we’d have complete and total chaos. It’s the “responsibilities” that make freedom workable. But only if everyone agrees to meet those responsibilities.

As we’re now learning the hard way, if too few Americans don’t take their responsibility to vote seriously, that very right gets eroded — by people who don’t want them to vote period. Voting shouldn’t be a “use it or lose it” proposition. It should be more “use it because it fills you with PRIDE to use it”. Or “use it because that’s how a representative democracy like ours works”. Use it because it’s your responsibility.

People who take their rights for granted are setting themselves up for failure. That would be us — right about now. Freedom, it turns out, is a muscle that must be warmed up, stretched and worked out like any other. It needs to be looked after so it can look after us.

By the same token — the rule of law is just an idea we invented. It cannot and will not enforce itself. That’s entirely up to us. If we want to live under the rule of law — and Donald Trump has demonstrated what the alternative would be — then we have to live by it We have to enforce it.

And we have to make sure that everyone who violates it — regardless of who — gets treated exactly the same.

That includes the punishment part.

Personal Freedom V The Group’s Freedom: Who Should Win?

The word “freedom” is like the word “God”. Ask ten people what it is, you’ll get ten different answers. And just like the idea of “God” is limitless, so, too, is the idea of freedom. That would be awesome if everyone’s idea of “God” was the same. We’d all be talking about the same creator-of-everything using the same language. We don’t, of course.

What makes it more problematic is that some peoples’ idea of “God” contradicts other peoples’ idea of “God”. Their conflicting ideas (God’s a raging psychopath vs God is love) can’t co-exist.

Similarly, if your idea of “freedom” is having all the guns you want, of any caliber, which you can fire freely from your front door at all your neighbors’ houses, that’s probably going to bump against your neighbors’ idea of freedom if they think it means NOT getting shot by you. Someone’s going to walk away from this feeling “less free”.

Right wingers are all about celebrating the rugged individualist — the “I alone can fix it” guy whose genius deserves every penny that falls into his pocket. Too bad that guy doesn’t exist. Only a male could think “he alone” could fix anything. Horse shit. There is not a human being in the whole history of humans who did anything alone. A woman would never say that because women know — biologically — how impossible it is.

A woman can’t get pregnant alone. It takes a male to do that (although women can orgasm alone just fine without their orgasm causing pregnancy). And once a baby begins growing inside of her, she knows she will need at least one other person to help get the baby out. Yes, yes, she could birth the child solo. But if she can’t get food for herself — because exhausted — she won’t be able to feed that baby and both mother and infant could die. Death and childbirth have a long history together and that’s WITH tons of help.

Then to raise that child? To feed it, educate it, clothe it, entertain it, put up with it — it takes a village just like Hillary Clinton once wrote that it does.

No group? No individuals would be there to join it or be part of it. The group wins right there. The individuals need the group more than the group needs any particular individual.

When RW shitheads walk around Coronavirus World maskless, they’re making a political statement: no one’s the boss of them. If they have coronavirus — or even a common cold — they believe it’s their RIGHT to give it to you and you have no “right” to refuse it. Sure, maybe you could try a little harder to not breathe in the RW-ers viral particles — no one’s “making you” breathe those. But that’s just putting the onus on others to prove their rights are as good as the RW-ers rights.

The simple fact is all “freedom” has limits. It has to or it becomes destructive. Have all the freedom of speech you like but if you shout “fire” in a crowded theater, you’ll also have a legal problem. Your freedom likely caused harm and even death to others.

No American is free to drive as fast as they like down a neighborhood street. No American is free to set fire to their neighbor’s house. No American is free to stop another American from voting. See? Limits.

Ever see a sign like this — “No shoes, no shirt, no service”?

Ubiquitous in some places, right? No one really ever had a problem. They get it. No shirt or no shoes is kind of unsanitary when you walk into an eating establishment. No mask shouldn’t make any difference to you walking in.

A lot of our freedom springs as much from common decency as law. Divorce freedom from decency and you get anarchy — and not the good kind either. It would be swell if humans could live in freedom and harmony with each other. A lot of us can. But we’re not the problem here.

In personal freedom world, your freedoms end where mine begin and mine end where yours begin. If we really want to live that way then either we’re always negotiating with each other — with one of us winning and the other losing. In Group Freedom World, we all understand where our freedoms begin and end. That’s because in Group Freedom World, freedom isn’t “free”. It comes with responsibilities and obligations.

Voting, for instance, shouldn’t just be a “benefit” of freedom, it should be an obligation. Want freedom? Maintain it. Likewise it’s an obligation to make sure that every single American gets to practice the exact same freedoms. If one single American isn’t getting every bit of their group freedom then the group is failing. We can only be as free as the least free among us.

When a mass shooter finishes killing, our first question is “who’s responsible for this?” That is, who beyond the shooter himself? The irony is WE are responsible for allowing this individual to think they could do this — assert their freedom over everyone else’s. The second amendment is a gun control amendment. That’s what the words themselves say (“well regulated militia” seems to suggest a group run by rules not guns). And the amendment says that the militia gets to decide to “keeps and bears” those arms. The amendment doesn’t say “own”. That suggests that, at all times, the militia owns the guns (and then decides who keeps and bears them situationally).

Imagine if we taught young Americans what freedom was in the abstract — and that this benefit came with responsibilities? We could teach it alongside how the rest of our system of government works. It seems we’ve abandoned teaching our children what makes us special. America is special. It can be.

If we can live up to the ideals we were founded on, America will be special. Exceptional even. That’s the part where “all people are created equal” at least where the law is concerned. Where our freedoms are concerned too.

It only takes one personal freedom loving asshole to undermine everyone else’s idea of freedom.

The Majority Of Us Did Not Vote For Trump Or What He’s Doing. So, How Come He’s Doing It Anyway?

It’s strange to live in a democracy (well, a democratic republic) where the majority does not get its way. Apparently by design.

It’s kind of hard for a democracy to continue being a democracy when too few of its citizens take part in the very process that makes a democracy work: voting. The whole point is “self-government”. We do the work.

As I’ve argued here before, too many Americans (on the right) have a 5 year old’s notion of freedom. They think freedom means “You’re not the boss of me”. Everyone can do what they like. Since freedom comes with zero responsibilities or obligations, it doesn’t matter if your “freedom” infringes or obliterates somebody else’s. So long as your freedom “wins”? Who cares?

For starters, those whose freedoms are being infringed upon or ignored. They care.

But then, right-wing people only ever think of their own freedom when they think of that word. Everyone else’s freedom is secondary at best.

That includes their freedom to vote.

At its core, this election, this fight — it is about freedom: the group’s freedom over the individual’s freedom (to undermine the group’s freedom).

That’s what racism is — it’s the racist asserting that their rights supersede their victims’ rights. If their victims’ rights were automatically respected, the racist would lose instantly — because we’d “baked in” our intolerance of racism. But we’ve done the opposite — and baked in our tolerance of racism.

Racism exists because we let it exist — no other reason.

That changed. Americans are taking to the streets every single day to protest racism and all the terrible thing it’s done to specific people. But, also we’re protesting the fact that We The People tolerated it for so long. We allowed statues of racists and traitors to go up. We allowed them to remain in place. We accepted their “messaging” — that some peoples rights are better than other peoples’.

The times in my life when I’ve been proud to be an American had everything to do with accomplishments (the moon landing) and nothing to do with our “system”. I’ve been taught that our system is superior — with the words “freedom” and “liberty” being liberally tossed in — but never specifically “why” we were better.

I don’t know when Americans lost interest in our process or if we ever had any interest in it. Maybe the problem is democracy’s damned hard to pull off. You can’t ever take it for granted. You can’t just throw money at it.

Hmmmmm… maybe that’s another of our problems. We’ve confused money with democracy. The more money you have, the more “democracy” you have. That is, the more your vote counts.

The RW money — the Kochs, the Mercers — had a huge advantage going in to this. They had money of course. But they also had “passion”. They cared enough about what they wanted to do something. The Kochs have been behind gerrymandering and the hijacking of the judiciary. When people vote repeatedly but never get their way — or feel the ominous pressure of judges who disapprove of who they are (so, it doesn’t really matter what they’ve done) — they get cynical. They stop taking part in the process because what’s the point?

They stop voting.

They begin to act like victims expecting their victimization to go on forever.

Rapists rape because they don’t care about the word “no”. It means nothing to them. It’s not a coincidence that every sexual deviant in office (that we know of — to be fair) has an “R” next to their name. That’s why child molesters like Roy Moore can run as Republicans. They’re the “Rights Of The Rapist Over The Rights Of The Rapist’s Victim” party.

That’s the answer to “how come Trump’s doing it anyway?” He’s a rapist. Rapists do what they want. He’s gotten away with it because his party is complicit. And they are — for the moment — getting away with it because WE were complicit for so long — tolerating more and more of our rights being trampled (with the caveat that they were always being trampled).

Progressives want as many people as possible to thrive and flourish. E Pluribus Unum — out of many, one. The more there are in the “many”, the better the “one” will be. That is American Exceptionalism — our diversity. That is the majority that voted against Trump in 2016 and 2018 and who will again vote against Trump this year.

Hillary Clinton won the popular vote by around 3,000,000 votes. That were counted. I bet someone could do some research and come up with a more accurate number that included all those votes that DIDN’T get counted. Or got flipped by electronic voting machines. Or were denied at their polling place. Or were dissuaded from even showing up by propaganda that filled their Facebook pages (propaganda send specifically to them from Russia via Konstantin Kilimnik and Paul Manafort). Or were “taught” from early on that there was no point in their voting to begin with.

I bet a more accurate assessment of 2016 would have Hillary Clinton and We The People decimating Donald Trump. Take Russia out of the picture and Trump certainly does not win Pennsylvania, Michigan or Wisconsin — and therefore the Electoral College (a whole “institution” meant to limit the freedom of the voters to have their say and way).

What scares Donald Trump, Mitch McConnell, Bill Barr, Mikes Pompeo, Flynn & Pence more than anything? Aside from how guilty they are, it’s how small a minority of Americans they represent. Seeing the majority suddenly rise up — taking to the streets every day — terrifies them.

I wonder if Donald Trump realized last night — as he gazed at all those empty blue seats in Tulsa — if the end was near. He’s gotten away with murder. Literally.

And that’s about to stop.

The majority has had enough.

Freedom Has NEVER Been “Free”; It ALWAYS Comes With Responsibilities

“Freedom”, like “liberty”, is one of those words everyone thinks they understand. If I’m free, I get to do whatever I want. Anyone who tries to restrict my “liberties” is restricting my civil rights!

Horse shit. Horse shit on steroids.

Most Republicans have a 5 year old’s understanding of freedom. They think freedom means “you’re not the boss of me”. But then, plenty of Republicans believe THEY are rugged individuals, conquering heroes of the free market there to make themselves rich at everyone else’s expense. They believe they should be free to pollute to their heart’s content, own every weapon imaginable — which they can carry in public so as to intimidate everyone else. They believe their freedom is more important than your freedom — whatever you think your freedom is.

That — right there — is the problem.

“Freedom” on a personal level is more “self indulgence” than “freedom”. A person who thinks their freedom includes infecting me with their coronavirus conflicts with my freedom. My freedom, you see, doesn’t work that way. Which of our two freedoms gets to dominate here? They can’t co-exist.

That’s where the group’s freedom comes in. The group — American society — also is “free”. But our collective individual freedoms have to live together. If two freedoms can’t exist together then both have to compromise or cease to be considered “freedoms”. How can freedom benefit one person while harming another? Thinking that THAT is “freedom” is exactly what got us into this mess.

America pays lots of lip service to “freedom”. But we don’t know what it is. Perhaps if we educated our young people in exactly how our government works, we could fix that. The most basic freedom we need to teach future citizens is the importance of voting itself as the foundation for freedom. Voting — and the politics that result — are how we negotiate our freedoms — balancing my needs against your needs and our needs against the larger public’s needs.

The simple fact is, there’s no such thing as “complete freedom”. Want that? Go live by yourself on an island. You’ll soon begin to experience freedom’s practical imitations. You by yourself aren’t free. It’s like keeping a gun in a gun locker. Sure, it’s “safe” there — but the gun wasn’t designed to sit in a gun locker — it was designed (from the ground up) to send a hot piece of metal flying at great speed into a live target, killing it. “Responsible gun ownership” isn’t what happens when the gun’s not being used. A bad idea is just a bad idea until somebody tries to “do it”. Then it becomes something else entirely. Freedom isn’t what you do on your own, it’s how you interact with others: what are we free to do as individuals in a society and as that society?

If you don’t show up to vote even, you haven’t exercised your most basic freedom. If you’ve “chosen” not to vote, you’ve in essence voted to shrug off your freedom. What other people choose to do with their freedom is how you’ll deal with yours. That’s their freedom in play, not yours which means they’re free and you’re not. You’re just pretending to be free.

Like a child.

Freedom and democracy are way harder than they look. But — if we can manage the responsibilities and obligations, the self-government is superior to any other form of government. People, in general, are far happier living in democracies. They’re way more productive. Imagine how much happier more Americans would be — how much more productive we’d all be — if only we’d get better at being “free”.

Why Do Assholes Think THEIR Freedom Is More Important Than Anyone Else’s Freedom?

Have ya heard the one about the asshole who refused to wear a mask — cos “freedom”? Sure ya have. Maybe the better question is how many times have you heard…?

This happened the past few days — an asshole walks into a Costco in Arvada, Colorado without a mask. The store has clearly posted that its policy — if you want to enter it — is you MUST wear a mask. An employee — acting respectfully at all times — confronted the customer and told him store policy was he needed to wear a mask in order to continue shopping.

The asshole turned on his phone and started recording the confrontation — thinking of course that his argument would crush this young man on social media. Problem was, the asshole was being an asshole on top of which, he was 100% wrong.

The social media threat backfired horribly. Tison, the employee — whether by dint of great training or because he’s just a smart person who understands how to handle a tricky situation calmly and directly. The video encounter can be seen here — at TMZ.

First things first: Tison, whoever you are — you’re a great employee. I’m sure you’d be a great manager or a great whatever you want to do. You know how to deal with people under duress and difficult circumstances. That’s harder than it looks.

The asshole makes a remarkable (though unsurprising) assumption — only his freedom matters. The asshole is right — he IS free to not wear a mask and be as big an asshole as he wants so long as he doesn’t break the law in any way. But his isn’t the only freedom under discussion.

The Costco Company also has freedom here. In fact, their freedom is no less than the asshole’s freedom. Their freedom should be exactly equal — and, so long as they’re not violating any laws or statutes, they are entitled to allow whomever they like into their stores. That’s their right — because they’re free.

Why do the assholes think their freedom is any more important than another person’s freedom? Oh, right — because they’re assholes.