Freedom, expressed to its fullest extent, simply means that all people are free to do as they please right up until such a point that they interfere with someone else’s ability to do the same. In other words, I’m free to swing my arms wildly right up until the point that one of my arms hits another person, and then I have overstepped the bounds of my rights.
I believe that all people are born free. At birth, we all have the ability (and the right) to think and believe what we want, say what we want, do what we want, go where we want, to defend ourselves and our families from anybody or anything who would want to harm us, and more. But with all rights come responsibilities. For example, we have a right to defend ourselves, but we also have a responsibility to defend those in our communities who cannot defend themselves, and a duty to do so without harming anybody unnecessarily. We have a right to say what we want, but we also have a responsibility to speak to the truth.
And I believe that if we value our freedom, we need to be willing to stand up and defend the freedoms of others, even if – especially if – we disagree with them. I think the polarization of our country to two different “sides” is misguided, and people are responding to it by curtailing free speech, and other rights as well. Conservative speakers and pundits are being refused the right to speak at colleges and universities, or they’re being shouted down and bullied. That’s wrong. And liberal protesters who are refusing to stand for the National Anthem, or who are burning American flags, are being shouted down, assaulted, having their property (flag) stolen, and are being threatened. That’s also wrong. Period.
I believe that good ideas can and should stand on their own, and bad ideas can and should be defeated on their merits as well. Sunlight is the best disinfectant. If you disagree with someone’s positions on anything, talk to them. Ask them questions. Engage with them. And be open about the fact that you might actually be the one on the wrong side. We’ve all been on the wrong side of something, haven’t we? I’ve been on the wrong side plenty. I believe I’m on the right sides now, but if I’m not, talk to me. Tell me where I’m in error. Provide me with the evidence I require to change my mind, and I will change my mind. That’s how I got here, and that’s how I’ll continue to move forward through life.
But one thing I know for sure: Force is never required to defeat a faulty idea in a truly free country.