Freedom isn’t free…or even definable
Isn’t it partially amazing but partially terrifying how the definition of the word “freedom” changes depending on who is defining it?
As a libertarian, for me personal freedom really is king. Some libertarians care more about the financial aspect, and I do sincerely care about that because I believe those things go hand in hand, but to me, the most important thing on this planet is for an individual to own her or his own body. The body that you have is the ONLY thing that is yours. You think you own property? PFFT! Guess again. You only own something as long as the government decides you’re allowed to own it. If you own property, but your city or state or county or even country decides that a road really, REALLY, DESPERATELY NEEDS TO BE BUILT where your property is, then you can kiss it goodbye. If you’re lucky, they might give you a little money for it, but you’re still going to be forced out. If you want to google specific cases of this, go ahead. That’s not really the purpose of this post.
Anyway, all that aside, to me, that is the definition of freedom. Owning yourself. Yet other people have opposite and (to me) insane ideas about freedom.
I recall a few years back when I was working for a super crappy, awful company that sold all natural pet food and care supplies. I worked in the store completely alone and most of my customers came back again and again, so I often had pseudo-relationships with them. One day one of the not-so-regulars came in, and I’m not even sure how he found this soap box to stand on, but he started calmly complaining about freedom in this country being diminished. At first I was with him as he said things like, “The government just keeps taking and taking all these little things and we let them get away with it because we don’t resist in the ways we should, and the reason we don’t resist is because we’re all terrified of being seen as terrorists.”
“Right on,” I replied. Yes, I really did say, “Right on.”
As it was a few years ago, I can’t remember the exact words he uttered, but I can recall my emotional reaction to what he said and how we were in a straight line, side by side, both disappointed with our dissolving freedoms, both ready for a REAL change (it was before Obama was elected, but I knew then he was a house of cards because they all are), both ready to just punch the nearest perfidious politician in the privates!
I mean, any time you’re letting a man marry another man….
Then, like when final Christmas present, the one you were hoping for all year long, the box that is the exact shape and size of all your material hopes and dreams, turns out to be a sweater from grandma, my heart just collapsed with unspeakable disappointment.
Really? THAT is the thing that’s keeping us from being free (again, it’s adorable what people say when they think they’re in common company; how did he know I wasn’t a lesbian)? I always thought marriage should be a given…though I don’t think government has any business presiding over marriage in the first place, since it does, it should be willing to do it for any and every consenting adult human (sorry, Peter Singer, I don’t think bestial marriage is kosher, even if it doesn’t technically hurt the sheep). I didn’t think he was a bad man, a bigot, or an otherwise awful human being, but I really was disappointed to see what I thought was a somewhat kindred spirit fall off the path.
So, since I hated that company anyway and figured I wouldn’t likely get fired because it would mean the cheap motherfucker I worked for would have to pay unemployment, I decided why not go ahead and disagree?
“I support gay marriage. I don’t see how it inhibits anyone’s freedom. I think two adults in love should be free to do whatever they want. It doesn’t hurt me in any way.”
He looked at me with a rather mysterious face, that at the time I couldn’t pinpoint.
“It trickles down though,” he said rather hesitantly, picking up his bag of dog food and preparing to exit the store.
“Well, I suppose we’ll just have to agree to disagree,” I said.
“Yeaaaaaah…” he replied, in a way that said, “Well, you’re totally wrong, but now isn’t the time nor place,” wished me a nice day, and left.
It wasn’t until much later that I had a strange epiphany the moment I finally defined that mysterious face my customer had made. It was that same face of crappy Christmas sweater disappointment that I had when he mentioned being against gay marriage. At that moment, I had a new respect for opposite passion. I still don’t agree with him. I still believe he is 100% wrong in every way, but something in me definitely changed at that exact moment.
I had a similar moment when Ted Kennedy died. I was watching the news and some reporter said that socialized medicine for the U.S. was Ted Kennedy’s life’s goal; I felt that same, distinct flutter in my chest. This was a good man, a good person, a person who was literally working his ass off, who literally gave most of his life in pursuit of making America a better place in his eyes. Yet, he was doing it for something I’m against. I thought to myself, “How beautifully tragic that what is one man’s passion to create is what is another man’s passion to destroy.”
It’s so easy to look at bad people and uphold them as justification for your opinions. I can easily look at Fred Phelps and say, “This is why we need a secular society.” It’s much harder when GOOD people’s thoughts and actions are complete opposites of yours. This is why I get so hurt when people insult each other (and me) as people over political things. I have a certain soft spot for caring crusaders. I like to pretend I’m one at times, but really I don’t accomplish much with my life. Still, there is something admirable about a person who is willing to non-violently fight every day for what they believe, even if it isn’t what I believe, or even if it’s just bat shit crazy. To them, I’m bat shit crazy.
An accumulation of similar moments has led me to the conclusion that all Americans agree that we ALL want to be free. We just can’t agree on what the hell that means!