Liberty and responsibility

This post was originally published on this site

I saw that some folks were protesting the “stay at home” orders and a sign caught my eye. It said “Liberty lost can never be regained”. And it made me stop and shake my head.

We’ve never been guaranteed liberty. It has always had to be fought for. We continue daily to fight for our liberties. And anyone who thinks that once liberty is lost – it can never be won back again, hasn’t been paying much attention to history and are consummate pessimists.

In thinking about liberty I wonder if someone else’s liberty should infringe on mine and if so, by how much? If I am symptom free should I be able to do whatever I want around whomever I want?

Or should we use liberty responsibly? And consider those outside of ourselves?

If we truly want individual liberty in all ways, is that going to be anarchy when all is said and done? Don’t we have laws because some “liberties” go too far into the liberty of another?

For example, if my hypothetical pursuit of happiness included taking your car and I considered it part of my “liberty”, I would be depriving you of your liberty to own that car. And I would be punished (if caught).

However, if my pursuit of happiness includes exposing you to a virus, and you are immune deficient, there is no way to prove that I infected you – and so I should be free to infect anyone, right?

No. Remember Typhoid Mary? Anyone?

“As a healthy carrier of Salmonella typhi her nickname of “Typhoid Mary” had become synonymous with the spread of disease, as many were infected due to her denial of being ill. She was forced into quarantine on two separate occasions on North Brother Island for a total of 26 years and died alone without friends, having evidently found consolation in her religion to which she gave her faith and loyalty.”

(Read more about her here).

I wonder what the folks who are protesting would think about that if it could be proved that they infected others? So far there are no consequences for infecting others (conscience notwithstanding).

But then, they would have to first be thinking of the greater good, rather than their personal liberty.

And while I totally understand the pressures of wanting/needing to work for many families who are a paycheck away from catastrophe… (been there, done that) – I cannot help but wonder how they would feel if someone they love got seriously ill because of them.

We’ve all hashed through these things before, every time there is an election – healthcare and “safety nets” come up and are debated. It just seems odd to me that in our great land of individuals who value freedom so highly, that we do not pursue the greater good more often. Too often I see the “What’s in it for me?” approach to our lives.

It saddens me that acts of kindness and thoughts for the greater good seem so rare that we take pains to point it out – it is newsworthy when someone behaves kindly to someone else. Why? Why isn’t this our default position? Is it cultural?

I have no answers today…just more questions, as I shake my head and hope that the folks who fear their loss of liberty put their votes where their protests are in the Fall.

And may it turn out for the greater good.

Photo by James Frid on
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