The Price of Liberty is Eternal Vigilance

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Choosing Not To Be Free

Shawn Keller
Captain, US Army Reserves

I’ve already done one year in Iraq and will be going back for another soon. A lot of people “thank me for my service to the Country” and I suppose most of them genuinely mean it. Some people even go so far as to thank me for “fighting for their freedom,” but the cynic in me is starting to question how much Americans truly want to be free.

Smoking bans are of course the latest example. It’s not enough that restaurant owners can choose to make their establishment smoke-free or patrons and employees can choose which type of environment they prefer. Most people now expect the government to limit freedom for the sake of protecting us from ourselves or because their not happy with the choices others make.

Part of freedom is being free to make the wrong decision, freedom to fail and freedom to be stupid. Part of freedom is engaging in self-destructive behavior that others may find objectionable as long as you accept the consequences of your own behavior. If you choose to enter a smoke-filled restaurant, for example, you have to accept the consequence of second-hand smoke.

As someone who is severely allergic to peanut oil, should I be able to force all restaurants to become peanut-free? Of course not - I simply find out which restaurants use peanut products and just go somewhere else. I don’t let my personal preference, even if there is a legitimate medical reason, to limit the choices of other people.

Of course government meddling in restaurants and bars is nothing new – just look at all the drama that played out over mini-bottles or video poker - not to mention the ban on trans-fats currently playing out in other states but will soon make its way here.

We’ve lost the freedom not to wear a seat belt anymore. We’ve never even had the freedom to play a friendly game poker with the neighbors. Mention school choice and most people shudder at the idea of having to make decisions in the education of their children. The same goes for private retirement accounts in lieu of our faltering social security system. Socialized health care is just around the corner. The government routinely dictates minimum wage to private companies. The list goes on and on.

So, please, I know I don’t speak for all veterans, but as long as you choose not to be free, don’t thank me for “fighting for your freedom.”

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