In honor of the upcoming Election Day, it seemed like a fitting time to reflect on what our liberties really mean to us. The official definition of liberty includes the following: freedom, entitlement, privilege, and freewill. In other words, the independence to do as we please. But the question at hand is this: does liberty grant us true freedom or does it actually take it away?
Living in the ultra-liberal atmosphere of San Francisco, each day I am introduced to these living and breathing liberties. Even with the influxes of the rich and the tech-savvy, every guest I ever show around the area is enamored by the oddly flashy bohemian lifestyle here.
Public nudity is no stranger to this fair city. Our LGBT community is both highly supported and celebrated. Burning Man is practically a political party here. We thrive on ethnic diversity. And the homeless. Despite measures to reinforce a ban on loitering, anyone living here is well-acquainted with turning a dark corner only to witness a homeless man or woman pooping on the sidewalk.
We do what we want. Our fundamentals are built on nonconformity. But my question is this: who decides where the source of liberty begins? We expect to be born with the privilege of autonomy, but how much sovereignty do we offer to others?
Based on the definition, liberty also entitles people the right to hate, to discriminate, to think narrowly. When you hear a person tell someone that they ‘have no right’ to judge, technically, of course they do. It’s freewill. So in the end, who decides which ideals are allowed to be liberated and which are not?
Recently, my friends and I were having some cocktails at Chambers in the Tenderloin. As we left and were walking towards our car, a rather angry homeless woman followed behind us yelling, “We gotta keeps these kinda girls out of our neighborhood!”
After escaping the woman’s madness I started thinking. I’m expected to give her the freedom to do drugs and harass people on the street, but I don’t have the freedom to wear a classy dress in the Tenderloin? I felt totally discriminated by someone who was prejudice towards me because they assumed that I was prejudice towards them. I thought to myself, how have we ended up here?
JFK famously quoted, “My fellow Americans, ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country.” And although the nostalgia of his presidency still lives in our hearts, I think that many of us have overlooked what this quote really means.
In order to receive liberty, we must also offer liberty. We all want the freedom to live our lives, pursue our aspirations, and believe in what we want to. But in our endeavors do we always offer others the same prerogative?
I for one am guilty of not doing just that. I shun those whom I consider narrow-minded without realizing that I myself am being narrow-minded in doing so. I love dogs and think they are far better than cats. I know many who would agree with me. Does that mean those who think the opposite are wrong? Nope. They have just as much right as I do.
It sounds simple, but in reality this acknowledgement of dual liberties could have a huge impact on how our society manifests itself. We need to be out of the days of fighting to disagree and into the days of agreeing to disagree. For it is only when we stop trying to control each other’s beliefs that we will ever truly be free.
And if you don’t agree with me, well hell, it’s your liberty not to.