An anti-lockdown protest

Freedom, consequences, and responsibility

Health and safety shouldn’t be ideological issues. When my doctor told me I had to drop weight or risk cardiovascular troubles, I didn’t call him a fascist who was trying to take away my God-given right to have Starbucks Frappuccinos and Del Taco Epic Burritos. I joined WW and went to work.

Yet, across the United States and here in my home of Orange County, California, protesters are demanding business and beaches to reopen. It’s not just because they, like everyone else, are tired of quarantines and uncertainty. They wrap their frustrations in the banner of freedom (and occasionally guns).

They forget that freedom comes with two other things, consequences and responsibility.

The coronavirus doesn’t care about your party affiliation, where you get your news, and which Facebook groups you follow. It spreads and infects. It sickens and kills the young as well as the old, the healthy as well as the sick, and the wealthy as well as the poor. Until we have treatments and vaccines, social distancing and restrictions are the best protections we have. You may say such policies infringe on your freedom. Lying in a hospital bed with an endotracheal tube shoved down your throat infringes on your freedom even more.

Freedom doesn’t protect you from consequences. If you want to join the crowd at the beach during a pandemic, you assume the risk of getting infected. If you put a concentration camp slogan on a protest sign, you assume the public scorn you will receive. You may have the freedom to drink bleach, but common sense and safety warnings on the bottle tell you not to.

This is not some left-wing, New World Order thinking. Conservatives also understand this. Mississippi slowed its reopening plans after a spike in coronavirus cases. Are you telling me that Huntington Beach doesn’t have the sense of Mississippi?

Consequences remind us that freedom comes with responsibility. If you want to enjoy the benefits of a free society, you have to do your part by paying taxes, obeying laws, and serving your community. Exercising your rights doesn’t allow you to infringe on the rights of others.

A good example of rights and responsibilities is the Second Amendment. (Yeah, we’re going there and for plenty of good reasons.) Most gun ownership advocates focus on the last part “..shall not be infringed.” I’ve seen that phrase tattooed on people’s arms. They forget the rest of the amendment:

A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.

There are plenty of interpretations, but one fact that has been true about firearms from 18th century muskets to the AR-15s of today: If you don’t know how to use, clean, maintain, store, and control these machines, they are more of a danger to you and your loved ones than anyone who might attack you.

There are people who should not have guns. Would you want terrorists, criminals, and mass murderers to have them? Would you sell them to someone who clearly lacks the physical ability and emotional control to operate them safely? Wouldn’t you rather go through the inconvenience of a background check and waiting period so that someone doesn’t shoot your child to death in school?

All rights, including the right to keep and bear arms, aren’t absolute. Freedom of speech doesn’t give you the right to plagiarize, libel, or issue death threats. You can’t use freedom of religion to escape charges of child abuse. Limits are necessary to protect the rights of others, including your own.

This is where people break out the Benjamin Franklin quote, “Those who would give up essential Liberty, to purchase a little temporary Safety, deserve neither Liberty nor Safety.” (This quote has a context that is often overlooked.) We need to ask what is meant by “essential Liberty.” Life is essential. Getting a haircut is not. My need to protect my family and myself from a potentially fatal disease trumps your desire to get a tan.

I too value my freedom, but I also understand my responsibilities and the consequences that come from misusing one’s rights. I exercise my right to stay home and my responsibilities to keep my family and community safe. I hope you will as well.