By Charles Betzler
There has been much discussion on social media about personal freedom. There have also been a plethora of posts alleging that the pandemic was orchestrated to rob of us of our personal liberties.
The dictionary defines freedom as the power or right to act, speak, or think as one wants without hindrance or restraint.
Let’s start with freedom of speech. The First Amendment affords us the right to free speech, but can we say anything we want? Yes and no. We can criticize our political leaders, we can call a person vile names, however, we can not incite a riot, or yell “fire” in a theater (and possibly injure people in a panic.).
We have the freedom to travel throughout our nation, however, we must obey traffic laws, possess a valid driver’s license, carry insurance, and follow many other laws and restrictions.
We have the freedom to live where we wish and to build any type of dwelling we can afford. There are, however, zoning laws, and building codes and ordinances in place to protect ourselves and other people from our actions.
As you can see freedom has limits. Without laws and limits to what we do, there would be total anarchy.
There are some who believe that the mere assertion of a right is enough to stifle public debate. That is not a valid premise when the exercise of that right has demonstrably dangerous public consequences. There are times when individual liberty must be constrained in deference to the public good.
The most disturbing and selfish statements I have heard so far are ones that say, “No one is going to tell me what to do,” or that they will go wherever they please and do whatever, regardless of the pandemic, because it is their right of freedom. One person’s right begins where another person’s rights end.
During World War II, many government policies restricted our civil liberties. Gasoline, tires, and sugar were tightly rationed. The production of domestic products was halted to make planes, ships, tanks, and other military hardware. There were blackout drills, and people who deemed to be a threat to this country were rounded up and put in camps. These were harsh measures but the public accepted them because the nation was unified against a common enemy.
We as a nation are again at war, not with a nation-state, but with a deadly microbe that knows no political allegiance and knows no borders. It is incumbent upon all Americans to willingly sacrifice some personal freedoms in order to defeat this enemy.
There is a vast difference between freedom and license.
Freedom includes taking responsibility for our lives. As long as it is compatible with the common good, people should be allowed to choose how they want to live. License, on the other hand, is the abandonment of all responsibility. It is a carte blanche to do as we wish. It is incompatible with virtue and destroys community.
So is that what you want? License? License to put yourself and others in danger? Or perhaps a license to injure or kill your brother, mother, spouse, child, or friend?
“None can love freedom heartily but good men; the rest love not freedom but license.”John Milton