Freedom is a very personal phenomenon
By SUsan Frick Carlman firstname.lastname@example.org March 14, 2013 7:52PM
Susan_Carlman_01 Jonathan Miano / Staff Photographer Sun Publications 2009-02-09
Updated: April 16, 2013 3:06PM
Freedom is a fungible phenomenon.
We’ve established that it doesn’t come free. Things of value seldom do. But the concept is intriguingly subject to individual interpretation.
Does the First Amendment guarantee us the right to say despicable and perhaps untrue things? Yes, it often does. If you’ve witnessed some of what’s been said in Naperville’s City Council chambers recently, you’ve seen this happen. Notwithstanding what the words say about the character of the speaker, we’re entitled to do that.
Are we free to carry guns? Yep. Nobody’s suggesting that access will cease any time soon, even if we’re oddly unsurprised when an infant is slaughtered inside her family vehicle, in broad daylight, in a public place, as happened this week on Chicago’s South Side. Even if we raise scarcely a brow as the broader death toll spirals ever upward. Harvard University researchers recently found that firearm homicides in the U.S. — where we have nine guns for every 10 citizens — are 19.5 times what they are in the other 22 wealthy nations that comprise the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, places where people also own guns. It seems pretty absurd to assert that the carnage will ease if we put more guns into more people’s hands — but that’s just me going all crazy with the First Amendment.
Do freedom’s guarantees extend to spending every last penny of our income on cigarettes and lottery tickets? Of course, even though you and I, likely both nonsmokers, foot a yearly bill just shy of $200 billion to treat the unquestionably deadly and preventable effects of tobacco use. The invoice presented to us for the social costs related to pathological gambling are a relative steal, at $22.5 billion annually.
Do we have the freedom to eat and drink as much as we like — including platters piled high with fries, saturated in imitation cheese sauce, that we chase down with giant tumblers of sugar-laden pop? It appears so, even if it brings us to a point where two out of three of us are overweight. The combined cost — in direct public health expense, lost productivity, the one billion extra gallons of gas needed to haul those excess pounds over U.S. highways every year, the resulting wear and tear on those roads — is edging toward half a trillion dollars annually, over and above the human heartbreak. For the first time in history, more of us will die this year from complications related to obesity than from hunger.
Can we call something a tax increase when it’s really just the closing of a loophole or the end of a longstanding tax break that was never supposed to be permanent? If we like, yes. But given the outcry over our federal budget problems, I think going back to what we were supposed to be paying all along is just the patriotic thing to do. Oh, there I go with that First Amendment thing again.
Sure, we’re free to do most anything we please; the list of exceptions is really pretty short. That doesn’t mean unrestrained exercise of those freedoms will make us healthy, wealthy or wise.
Just a thought.
Another thought: please don’t put off going to see that older, perhaps ailing person you keep meaning to pay a visit.
I meant to go spend a little time with Chet Rybicki, after a Naperville man came to me a few months ago, saying the former Naperville mayor had some accomplishments that didn’t get the attention they deserved during his eight years in office more than three decades ago. I meant to look into it, and then Chet passed on last week, ending a nice long run that stretched more than 96 years. My loss.
So don’t wait. Even though you’re free to do so.