What is Freedom?

One of the more disturbing aspects of contemporary debate today is the lack of appreciation for freedom. People enjoy their own freedom for sure, but they don’t like when others have freedom: the freedom to criticize, the freedom to disagree, the freedom to offend, the freedom to prove you wrong, the freedom to defeat your ideas. It is all too much to bear. For many, it is too uncomfortable that someone else may have a better idea than their own; they don’t want to be wrong; they want others to agree with what they do or to simply affirm their behavior, so they can feel good about themselves. They would rather be protected from the truth because the truth is not kind.

This is why we have the notions of “hate speech” or “speech is violence”. Cracking down on hate speech or misinformation are the stated reasons for attacking freedom because the real reasons are too ugly to share openly. After all, who wouldn’t be against hate speech? Who would defend anyone accused of hate speech? If one’s speech is censored or if one is punished for his hate speech, well he had it coming, right? However, once the notion of hate speech is accepted, it can be used to define any speech, whether actually hateful or not. You are offended by someone else’s ideas or speech, you label it hate speech. You don’t like or agree with what someone says, label it misinformation, even if it may, in fact, be true. So, the speech of those in power don’t like becomes hate speech or misinformation, and if you are not one in power, your freedom has been curtailed.

More than 40 years ago in Skokie, Illinois, a planned Nazi demonstration was the source of great controversy. Skokie was chosen by the Nazis because it had a large Jewish population; their goal was to offend as many as possible. There were many efforts to stop the demonstration because of its offensive nature. The least likeliest of defenders, the ultra-left leaning ACLU, defended the Nazis right to protest. The ACLU defended them because back then they knew this is what our First Amendment is all about: the right to peaceably assemble in protest (they’ve forgotten that principle today). Politics, or in this instance, principled politics, made strange bedfellows. The ACLU and the Jewish lawyer who led the ACLU effort clearly didn’t sympathize with the Nazi movement, but still defended a right afforded all Americans as long as it is done peaceably. At the time, everyone knew why they were doing this, even if they didn’t like it, but today, if I stood up and said Nazis had the right to celebrate the anniversary of the 1977 Skokie demonstration, I would be shouted down and labeled a bigot or much worse. If I were a public figure or worked for a woke organization, I would lose my job for simply standing up for another’s right to peaceably protest. Supporting the right to demonstrate is not the same as supporting the cause championed, but that subtlety is totally lost on the Left today.

Forty years later, Ben Shapiro, noted conservative, created a similar controversy by speaking at the very liberal University of California-Berkley (UCB). Shapiro is a Harvard educated lawyer who in his early thirties started his own media outlet, Daily Wire. He is thoughtful, well-spoken, fair-minded, and anything but a bomb throwing nut case, a far cry from the Skokie Nazis of forty years ago. Shapiro’s arguments are cogent, well thought out, and supported by evidence. His media outlet has numerous daily podcasts, including one of his own; he has also authored numerous number-one best-sellers on contemporary issues of our day. His network is billed as the largest, fastest growing conservative network in the country. He is not a fringe figure on the right, not an Alex Jones or Milo Yiannopoulos; he is well liked and well respected among a vast swath of conservatives.

Shapiro speaks for many who are not filled with hate for others, but have strong disagreements with their political opponents. His messages are far more tolerant and far more mainstream than the Skokie Nazis, yet his political opponents put him in Hillary Clinton’s “basket of deplorables”. They call him a fascist, alt-right, and a Nazi, without regard to the fact that he is an Orthodox Jew and a target of these groups himself. They label him because they don’t like his message. His message offends them. His message competes with their own. They would rather shut down his message than have their own ideas go head-to-head with his. In this instance, UCB actually allowed Shapiro to speak, but many other conservative speakers have been shut down or disinvited. Conservatives are not welcome on liberal college campuses; very few ever get a chance to speak.

The liberal student body holds sway in most universities and campus administrators are quick to accede to demands to shut down speech the student body doesn’t like. What today’s precious college snowflakes don’t realize is that their own speech may be targeted next. The First Amendment protects all speech indiscriminately. The student body yields the power in this instance, but they may not in the future. The First Amendment protects the rights of the minority more than anything else, and as my dad told me long ago, we are all in the minority at some time in our lives.

Jordan Peterson, a University of Toronto professor, came to prominence a few years ago by criticizing legislation which added gender identity and gender orientation to the Canadian Human Rights Act and the criminal code. Petersen warned that not using the preferred pronouns would be considered hate speech and now it is literally becoming a crime in Canada to engage in speech that the government doesn’t approve of: https://reclaimthenet.org/canada-wants-to-fine-people-up-to-50000-for-online-hate-speech/.

Canada has no First Amendment, but even though we do have a First Amendment, it is not respected by progressives in our country. Tucker Carlson recently highlighted a California bill which proposes prison time for those not using preferred pronouns: https://video.foxnews.com/v/5555352718001/#sp=show-clips. This is scary.

This is where we are headed, and rather rapidly I am afraid. The First Amendment served us well for so long because we collectively believed in it. When I was a kid, my friends and I often used the phrase: “It is a free country” when someone objected to something we did. It was obvious to all and believed by all. The phrase is not commonly used any longer and not believed by as many, especially college intellectuals and the snowflakes they indoctrinate. If we don’t continue to support the principles of the First Amendment, it will soon be a dead letter. You won’t be able to speak your mind unless you follow the party line, and even then you better be careful because the party line changes frequently.

Our founding fathers understood our freedoms come from God. Government should not be in the business of inventing and granting freedoms. Our founding fathers did not believe they were establishing new rights; they were building upon the discoveries of those who came before them, Enlightenment thinkers like Locke and Blackstone. They created a Constitution which protects the rights given to us by God. They did not attempt to define rights unique to their time but rather rights that had been always been with us (although often not recognized by many governments). A government that can grant new rights can also easily take away those rights; under such a scheme, your freedoms are always at the mercy of who is in power. Our founding fathers recognized this possibility and took steps to guard against it.

Jefferson summed up our rights concisely; they are: life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness; the Bill of Rights puts more meat on the bones of this principle. You are not guaranteed happiness, just the right to pursue it. You are not guaranteed equal outcomes, just equality under the law. You are promised that government will do all it can to protect your liberty and your right to life and property, but the rest is on you.

In my lifetime, we’ve invented rights that have never existed and aren’t actually rights at all: the right to insurance, the right to live in a COVID free environment, the right to abort a child, the right to get married, and so on. God gave us freedom and wants us to be free, but He didn’t promise we’d always have health insurance. If you want health insurance, then earn the money to pay for it. If you can’t afford insurance, there are still those who are willing to provide care at little or no cost. I’ll support those who are willing to help others who are down and out, but don’t demand that I chip in for yours and everyone else’s insurance, especially if you could make the sacrifices the rest of us make to obtain it.

The problem we have can be seen clearly by examining what some people today believe to be freedom. I look at the words of a few public figures: former U.S. soccer player, Abby Wambach, former California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, the New South Wales Health Minister, Kerry Chant, Dr. Anthony Fauci, and Washington Post columnist Lauren Rowello. None of them has a clue. They don’t understand what freedom is and so they don’t understand how they are dangerously undermining our freedoms.


What They Say About Freedom

Abby Wambach, giving a commencement speech at Barnard College in 2018 said the following about freedom:

So it went like this: ESPN called and told me they were going to honor me with their inaugural icon award. I was humbled, of course, to be regarded as an icon. Did I mention that I’m an icon?

I went through a terrifying transition recently when I retired from soccer.

The world tries to distract us from our fear during these transitions by creating fancy ceremonies for us. This graduation is your fancy ceremony. Mine was the ESPYs, a nationally televised sports award show. I had to get dressed up for that just like you got dressed up for this, but they sent me a really expensive fancy stylist. It doesn’t look like you all got one. Sorry about that.

I received my award along with two other incredible athletes: basketball’s Kobe Bryant and football’s Peyton Manning. We all stood on stage together and watched highlights of our careers with the cameras rolling and the fans cheering—and I looked around and had a moment of awe. I felt so grateful to be there—included in the company of Kobe and Peyton. I had a momentary feeling of having arrived: like we women had finally made it.

Then the applause ended and it was time for the three of us to exit stage left. And as I watched those men walk off the stage, it dawned on me that the three of us were stepping away into very different futures.

Each of us, Kobe, Peyton and I—we made the same sacrifices, we shed the same amount of blood sweat and tears, we’d left it all on the field for decades with the same ferocity, talent and commitment—but our retirements wouldn’t be the same at all. Because Kobe and Peyton walked away from their careers with something I didn’t have: enormous bank accounts. Because of that they had something else I didn’t have: freedom. Their hustling days were over; mine were just beginning.

Abby Wambach: Barnard Commencement 2018 – YouTube

First of all, the comment that she is less free because she makes less money than the exceptionally well-compensated Manning and Bryant makes no sense. Wambach is famous, well-known in the sports world, and well compensated in her own right:

Abby Wambach net worth: Abby Wambach is a professional soccer player from the United States who has a net worth of $4 million dollars. Abby Wambach is a two-time American Olympic gold medalist soccer player, FIFA Women’s World Cup champion, and member of the National Soccer Hall of Fame. She retains the title of highest all-time goal scorer for the American national women’s soccer time and is regarded as one of the greatest soccer players of all time.

source: https://d7b17305ff6357134e89985363dc0648.safeframe.googlesyndication.com/safeframe/1-0-38/html/container.html

I am sure you would agree that $4 million provides for a comfortable lifestyle. From the perspective of those who have had to work all our lives to still fall short of $4 million net worth, this definition of freedom is laughable. By this definition I am less free than Wambach, and probably most of you as well. St. Paul, who lived in the non-progressive age of 2,000 years ago, could tell Wambach something about this misguided definition of freedom. I would venture she would bristle at having sexist patriarch like Paul thrown in her face, but maybe it is time to return to the basics? Paul knew as much or more about human nature than most of us living today.

For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evils. It is through this craving that some have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many pangs (1 Timothy 6:10).

Wambach’s definition of freedom is one that is likely to disappoint and keep us miserable in our relative poverty. Furthermore, it seems to apply more to women than men. She seems rather resentful that women are less free than men (at least by her definition). I think we need to keep looking for a better definition than Wambach’s.

As a side note, I ask was Wambach short-changed? Should she have been given more money and more stuff, so she can be more free? I think not. She isn’t as popular or as well-known as Kobe or Peyton, nor is soccer as popular as football or basketball in her home country. Wambach and Megan Rapinoe, her goofy soccer compatriot, also complain they don’t make as much money as Lionel Messi, one of the greatest male soccer players extant, but then neither of them is as good as Messi. The elite women soccer players cannot compete even against college male teams: https://www.cbssports.com/soccer/news/a-dallas-fc-under-15-boys-squad-beat-the-u-s-womens-national-team-in-a-scrimmage/. Furthermore, Messi and the other elite male soccer players draw more fans and make more money for their teams than Wambach, Rapinoe, and other women soccer players have. I would say Wambach was fairly treated and has lived a charmed life. Are you like me and tired of famous, well compensated people like Wambach, Rapinoe, and Princess Megan Markle whining about being victims? It is time for them to live in the real world.

Of course, some might say my comments about Wambach and women soccer players are offensive. They might call it misinformation as it does not reflect well on the goal of equal compensation for women. You might even label it hate speech in an effort to silence people like me, but what have I said that was untrue? Give me the facts of why they should be paid more, other than just because it is fair and it should be so. It is not too often in my life that anyone other than my parents gave me something for nothing. I usually had to work hard and earn my way (and even then I didn’t always get what I thought I deserved). Why should Wambach be different?

While I acknowledge my words about women soccer players might be harsh, my intent was not to offend; my intent was to enlighten and highlight the obvious truths. How about we call it tough love instead? I don’t want others, especially our youth who listen these famous folks, to believe this is the true notion of freedom. The truth is sometimes unpleasant, but it should never be suppressed.

Next, we come to Arnold Schwarzenegger who earlier this month said these words:

“There is a virus here. It kills people and the only way we prevent it is: get vaccinated, wear masks, do social distancing, washing your hands all the time, and not just to think about, ‘Well my freedom is being kind of disturbed here.’ No, screw your freedom,”

https://www.usatoday.com/story/entertainment/celebrities/2021/08/12/arnold-schwarzenegger-anti-maskers-screw-your-freedom/8106562002/

He is asking the rest of us to forgo our freedom because he doesn’t like that everyone is not in lockstep with his vision of how we should behave in a time of crisis. I think this is a rather cynical view of freedom. Who made him king? How about we follow your idea or mine about how to stay safe? Why is his better? Schwarzenegger has a list of things he says we must do regularly. We must do all these things in the manner prescribed by him or we deserve to have our freedom taken away? Really?

But a bigger problem is that he is not consistent. Of course, very few are either as all as standards seem to go out the window when it comes to COVID. We treat COVID in a way that we never treated similar threats in the past.

Let’s do some comparisons between COVID and other risky behavior. Should we treat people who engage in promiscuous sex in the same manner (lest we forget, the former governor had his share of extramarital affairs)? After all, another’s unsafe sexual practices could lead to the spread of venereal disease or AIDS which could eventually impact others among us, and AIDS, like COVID, can kill. Should we provide a series of demands for those who engage in such risky behavior? Many years ago there were widespread complaints about people being pressured to reveal their AIDS status; it was deemed homophobic to inquire about their status despite the fact that it is morally dubious to engage in sex with another when you are infected with AIDS. We erred on the side of freedom with regard to AIDS, so why not with COVID as well?

I am sure you could think of other risky behaviors which might impact others. Should these all be regulated in the same way Arnold wants COVID regulated? Schwarzenegger in his interview also compares COVID to traffic incidents. You shouldn’t run a red light because you might kill somebody, so (according to him), you shouldn’t leave your home without a mask and you must be vaccinated because you might kill somebody. By this logic, maybe you shouldn’t ever leave your home. It is just too risky. Stay at home more often and you might possibly save a life. Basically, Arnold wants to restrict freedoms because of something that might happen. He also argues it is necessary to restrict everyone’s freedoms because we’ve never seen a risk as great as this one in all of recorded time. No, Arnold. I wouldn’t even put this one in the top ten.

Furthermore, if I run a red light, I pay a fine; I am not required to follow a strict daily regimen because I messed up once. If I run a red light and it leads to a fatality, well then, I may, in fact, be liable; I could even go to jail. But even in that instance, I get due process. Arnold doesn’t seem to believe in due process when it comes to COVID; per his logic, you leave home without a mask, you probably killed someone today. But Arnold, how about you provide a little more proof before you call someone a murderer? Lest you think I am exaggerating, listen to the clips below. When public figures like Schwarzenegger speak out in this way, they get lots of cult-like followers in their wake:

https://news.yahoo.com/school-board-member-claims-kids-201243418.html

https://nypost.com/2021/05/18/teacher-berates-vaccinated-student-for-not-wearing-mask-video/

Let’s stick a little longer with traffic incidents since Schwarzenegger made that comparison:

Reducing motor vehicle crash deaths was one of the great public health achievements of the 20th century for the US. However, more than 32,000 people are killed and 2 million are injured each year from motor vehicle crashes. 

So, let’s turn every two-lane road into a divided highway (damn the cost, damn your freedom) and let’s reduce the speed limit on all interstates by half. This would save thousands of lives annually. Schwarzenegger was governor for eight years; he could have implemented such measures to save lives. Why didn’t he? Why don’t we do it now? Because our freedom comes with some costs. If we want to eliminate all risks, we wind up eliminating our freedom in the process (eliminating all risk is, in fact, what we are attempting to do with our COVID policy; see more in my post earlier this month: https://seek-the-truth.com/2021/08/08/the-fools-gold-of-zero-covid/ )

What bothers me most about Arnold’s definition of freedom is that it doesn’t apply equally to all. He is not alone; many public figures use the same words in lecturing the rest of us, but maybe they don’t realize we see there is one version of freedom for them and another for the rest of us. Arnold lambasts you for not following his strict regimen, but did he call out President Obama when he held a mask-less birthday party few weeks ago? He hates Trump, but he gave Obama a pass. By Arnold’s standard, the former president was putting more people at risk in one day than I put at risk in a year. How about he also call out Pelosi and Lightfoot who just had to have their haircuts while the rest of their states were locked down? How about criticizing Gavin Newsome who held a mask-less party at a ritzy restaurant at the height of the pandemic? Arnold and his pals’ version of freedom is stacked toward those who make the rules; they are more free than those who they make the rules for. I will pass on Arnold’s version of freedom as well.

Some of you could come up with more examples of how we can save lives and slow the spread of other diseases at the cost of our freedoms. Or maybe you think I am being ridiculous by comparing COVID to AIDS or traffic accidents? Do you also think this idea of our freedoms being stolen is far-fetched? COVID is a once-in-a-lifetime event, not the norm, right? No. It is not. The world has actually gone mad. We are living through Alice in Wonderland. To prove the point, read what the health minister in New South Wales, Australia said recently:

“Whilst it’s human nature to engage in conversation with others — to be friendly — unfortunately this is not the time to do that,” Chant said.

“So even if you run into your next-door neighbor in the shopping center … don’t start up a conversation. Now is the time for minimizing your interactions with others. Even if you’ve got a mask, do not think that affords total protection. We want to be absolutely sure that as we go about our daily lives we do not come into contact with anyone else that would pose a risk.”

source: https://notthebee.com/article/australian-health-official-tells-folks-to-not-talk-to-anyone-even–next-door-neighbor-in-the-shopping-center

What is the point of living our lives if the only thing we need to focus on is saving ourselves from the virus? This woman’s idea of freedom is that you must simply exist until such time that the virus passes and your freedoms can be restored. I would say most of us aren’t willing to live that way, but if you are because you believe it is your civic duty and you are willing to sacrifice for the team, then be forewarned: if you consent to this notion of freedom, your freedoms will never be restored. You willingly give them up now and the government will have no incentive to give them back to you later. You are sacrificing much more than you realize.

The history of the world has been replete with struggles between the strong and the weak. For most of history, government, monarchs, elites, or the ruling class had the power. America turned that notion on its head by giving power to “We the People”. Jefferson famously said: “When governments fear the people, there is liberty. When the people fear the government, there is tyranny. ” Our Constitution protects the power of the people and limits the power of government. If we give back that power to the government, we will rue it the rest of our lives.

Of course, one of my posts would not be complete without hearing from the greatest doctor of our time, the sainted Dr. Anthony Fauci. We know Dr. Fauci is an expert on all things COVID, all things science, in fact. We have learned he is a public policy expert as well (not something one learns in medical school, by the way) and now we learn that he is an expert on freedom as well. He is a regular Renaissance man.

Dr. Anthony Fauci on Sunday urged Americans to “put aside” their concerns of personal liberties and recognize the common enemy: COVID-19.

“Put aside all of these issues of concern about liberties and personal liberties and realize we have a common enemy and that common enemy is the virus,” Fauci said on CBS’ “Face the Nation.”

If Dr. Fauci has earned your trust and never let you down the past eighteen months while he has been the de-facto leader of our country, then you should definitely listen to him in this instance as well. But, if you are like me and question Fauci’s grasp on science and medicine, let alone the topic of freedom, then you should dismiss his wanderings into yet another area of non-expertise. He knows as much about freedom as Wambach, Schwarzenegger and the New South Wales Health Minister, which is to say not that much. They are awash in freedom and they don’t even realize what they have. The people of Afghanistan know more about freedom because they have lost it. https://en-volve.com/2021/08/17/watch-u-s-army-vet-loses-it-on-msnbc-about-bidens-afghanistan-remarks-i-feel-like-i-watched-a-different-speech-that-you-guys-i-was-appalled/

Finally, I go back to a Washington Post article on the public expression of sexuality among the LGBTQ. I highlighted this story in a prior post: https://seek-the-truth.com/2021/07/15/more-on-transgenderism-it-is-not-about-hate/ (see the section: What is Freedom?) I cover the details of this in the post, but I summarized it in this way:

But lately, my mind has take an unexpected turn when I soberly examine the West as it really is, I find much wanting in its worldview and way of life. More than that, I have come to believe that the very modes of life and thinking that strike most people in the West as “antiquated” or “limiting” can liberate us, while the Western dream of autonomy and choice without limits, in fact, is a prison; that the quest to define ourselves on our own is a kind of El Dorado, driving to madness the many who seek after it; that for our best, highest selves to soar, other parts of us, must be tied down, enclosed, limited, bound. (from Sohrab Ahmari, The Unbroken Thread)

Ms. Rowello celebrates sexual freedom. For her, this sexual openness and the wide range of choices it offers is a model for freedom in general and a way in which she can teach her kids about the value of freedom. Those who advocate for unlimited sexual freedom, will eventually experience this disappointment as well, hopefully, before it is too late. Many see God’s law as inhibiting us, but in reality God’s Law or Natural Law actually free us, allow to us realize our true potential. When you dismiss these restrictions and limitations, something must fill the void, and the void these days is filled with nonsense .

I also spoke about unlimited choices and the fact that having no limits is not always a good thing. Rowello’s version of freedom is also seriously lacking and is not all that she thinks it is.

She equates freedom with having more choices, but more choices don’t necessarily make one more free. If you are a parent or a grandparent or a teacher or someone who works with kids or just someone who cares about kids, then you should know more choices are not better for kids. In this day and age of the internet, more choices means more bad choices, and more bad choices means a higher chance of choosing badly. I want my kids to have good choices, but not unlimited choices; they are not wise enough yet to pick well from an unbounded list. Doctor, lawyer, engineer, accountant, or scientist all seem like good choices for their future careers, but open their minds to all available choices and they suddenly realize they can also be a sex industry worker, a loan shark, or a drug dealer. A few choices are good, but I will steer them away from the latter three. More choices might just lead them to enslavement in some lousy future.

Needless to say unlimited choices with regard to sex or other life decisions is not where we should be looking to define freedom. This idea of freedom is pretty far off the mark as well.

I can go on about all this topic, and, in fact, I will in a second post on the topic, but some folks have told me my posts are too long, so I will stop before this one rambles on too long. In my next post on freedom, I return to debate my liberal friend who has some notions about freedom and abortion, freedom and gay marriage, freedom and mask mandates; needless to say, we are on opposite sides of the fence on these issues. He challenges my notion of freedom and asks if I am being hypocritical in picking and choosing what we are free to do and what we are not free to do. I have wanted to delve deeper into these hot-button contemporary issues of our time and this allows me the opportunity.

For now, think long and hard about what freedom means to you. It seems like such an obvious thing, but as I hope I have demonstrated above, many smart people, people who influence public opinion, have no clue. Freedom is not found in money as Wambach said; freedom is not preserved by taking away freedoms from some in order to protect the whole or by restricting freedoms for a period of time or by following government edicts as Schwarzenegger, Fauci, and the New South Wales health minister tell us, and freedom is not found through unlimited choices or giving in to sexual abandon as the Washington Post columnist tells us. Don’t accept their distorted notions of freedom and don’t let them lead you down the primrose path of surrendering your freedoms forever. I pray that we don’t have to discover the true meaning of freedom by losing it altogether.

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