Lunaya Pravda

01 April 2006

Fear of freedom

Crispin Sartwell writes:

We want the government to guarantee our health, deflect hurricanes, educate our children and license us to drive; we want to be told what to eat, what to smoke and whom to marry. We are justly proud of the fact that no enduring society has ever incarcerated more of its people. Noting that the policeman has a pistol, a club, a stun gun, a can of pepper spray and a database that includes us, we feel happy and secure.

Our submission is absolute: We want to be operated like puppets and provided for like pets.

The terrorists hate our freedom. But we should be comfortable with that. We hate our freedom, too.

(Hat tip to Radley Balko for the find.)

This is precisely the same thought that's been nagging at me for months now. We as a society AREN'T comfortable with freedom, and for two main reasons.

The first is that with freedom comes responsibility - self-determination is a scary, daunting proposition, especially to those who've never known the definition of "self-supporting". It gives us the ability to soar to great heights, and to plummet with a resounding thud and no safety net. It also provides us no scapegoat for our fears and failures. When we make mistakes, be they as big as choosing the wrong mate or as small as leaving a red sock in the washer with the whites, no one is around to shoulder the blame and whisk away the consequences.

The second is that we aren't comforable with what others will do with their freedom. They might *gasp* light up a cigarette at the bar stool next to you. They might leave rusting car bodies on their front lawns. They might gamble their money away at the local casino. And, horror of horrors, we just can't have that.

Sometimes it makes me wonder if it's worth trying to convince anyone that living free is the only acceptable choice. All too frequently, the recipient of my suggestions nods in agreement until they remember just one thing they wouldn't like their neighbors to be able to do. And each one of them justifies their intrusion with "it's just one little law - what's the harm?", not even acknowledging the cumulative effect of each of those little laws.

I can't say that I'm always comfortable with the things my neighbors do with the freedoms we still have. For example, the newest family on the block has taken to parking their oil-leaking disastermobile in front of my house on occasion, and yes, it grates on my nerves when I see the greasy slick on the pavement. But if I'm going to walk the walk, I need to just let that go for the bigger picture. They're a quiet couple with kids, and other than the car, they've given me no grief.

What a sad little battalion of busybodies America has become. And I'll still struggle to keep my annoyance in check, because I don't want to enlist.

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