A woman in the US of A is running the risk of having her children taken away by social services because they have Nazi-inspired names including ‘Adolf Hitler’ and ‘Aryan Nation’. That’s a middle name. In case you were wondering.
Worthy of social services intervention? I’d say no.
Of course there may be more to this than the parents’ poor taste and horrendous political affiliations. Although so far there doesn’t seem to be. And if those children were taken away because their mum has Nazi sympathies, then we have a problem. Because freedom is not faring well, when it only applies to those who agree with us.
Of course the concern is valid – in a liberal democracy, can you allow the expression of views the logical conclusion of which would be the dissolution of the very foundation of the freedoms you so cherish? I’d love to say no. But if you silence those who would silence you, you are no better than they are.
Still, it’s a tough call to make.
But choice is what freedom is about. The choices you are allowed to make because you are free. And the choices you must make in order to be free.
And obviously none of this is simple. And it all got a whole-lot more complicated post 9/11 when we were told we could either be safe or free. Freedoms, we were told, had to be curtailed for our own good. More surveillance, longer periods of detention for those arrested on suspicion of threatening our lives or way of life, new legislation, more monitoring. Freedom of expression is now a heavily qualified proposition. In the name of security: our safety and the protection of our way of life.
And many of us accepted limits to freedom in the name of security – because what good is freedom to a dead guy?
Even though our freedoms were secured by many who died demanding or defending them.
Even though security and freedom do not have to be mutually exclusive, unless we make them so.
Even though our way of life was meant to be all about freedom in the first place.
Wasn’t the right to have unpopular opinions part of what we used to stand for? Part of what we used to fight for?
Freedom was never meant to come in one size, one shape and one flavour.
Freedom was never meant to make life easier. It was meant to make life better.
Freedom was never meant to be restricted to those we like. That was the whole point: freedom was meant to make us bigger than the bad guys.
As I was saying, liberalism for beginners. But maybe it’s time we went back to basics.