Monday Morning Thoughts: Your Freedom’s My Guillotine

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David McNew/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

By David M. Greenwald
Executive Editor

The forces of repression have done a masterful job of flipping the concept of freedom on its head.  But there is really nothing new with that.  The history of this nation has been largely founded on the concept of individual freedom… at the expensive of the other.

Frame it up now.  Once upon a time the US fought a civil war over state’s rights.  Of course what they didn’t want to tell you is that they wanted the right as the white male citizens of a state to enslave Black people.  To this day, many will tell you that the rebel flag stands for freedom and state rights, and a memorial of history rather than… slavery and racism.

Not much has really changed.  Last year people were protesting – sometimes with guns against… mask mandates that were designed to slow the spread of COVID to buy us time to develop a vaccine.  And of course once we developed said vaccine, people are now protesting being compelled to take it or lose their jobs.

People want to argue – my body my right.  But of course they forget – my body, my right as well.  Freedom in the US is about *me* not *we* and especially not *them* as in those people over there.

If you look at polling the political right in this country will tell you that they stand for freedom above all else.

Being a Republican, one will tell you, “a Republican is about individual liberty and personal freedom.”

There is a problem with this philosophy – it’s not that  freedom isn’t an important concept.  We would have no government by consent without the freedom to vote one’s conscience.  The problem is that it also gets complicated once we realize that freedom is not conflict free and it cannot be unidimensional.

Take state rights.  Should states have the right to by popular sovereignty (or as we knew in the 19th century – a very limited concept of popular sovereignty limited to white males) in effect vote to take away the freedom of others?

That was so contentious we actually fought a civil war over it.

In the Lincoln-Douglas debates, Stephen Douglas, in some ways a more moderate on the slavery issue argued over and over against that states should have the right to decide whether to be slavery or free – but he made it very clear that by state, he meant the voters and by the voters, he meant exclusively white men.

“I hold that this Government was made on the white basis, by white men, for the benefit of white men and their posterity forever, and should be administered by white men and none others,” he argued.

It is easy to look back and see the fundamental flaws in the logic.  Even if you believe it was wrong for only white males to have the right to vote, the very notion that the issue of slavery should be consigned to popular sovereignty, we understand now to be tyranny of the majority (at best).

In more moderns times, this freedom argument however is just as much one-dimensional.  They will argue: I should have the right to choose not to wear a mask.  You can choose to wear a mask or not.  So should I.

It makes sense to a point – until you realize that your freedom infringes on the freedom of others – the right to life, the right to liberty, and the right to access to public accommodations without fear of health and safety.

But we quickly forget that something has to give here – either it is your freedom or mine and that every time freedom conflicts, there was be a legitimate arbiter of rights and that arbiter in civilized society is not force but government which see can boil down to the legitimate use of force as opposed to the illegitimate use of force through mob rule that many are advocating de facto.

This debate quickly loses sight of the bi-directionality of freedom.

They forget that their right not to wear a mask infringes on my right to go to a public place without exposing myself to the risk of getting sick.

They then argue that if I’m too fearful to go to a public place, I can choose to stay home.

It works the same for vaccination.

It sounds like a powerful argument – just like state rights for slavery, until you realize that you have tilted the playing field.  Their freedom, puts everyone at risk here.  It continues the proliferation of a disease that has killed over 700,000 in America and millions worldwide.

It’s counterproductive because it has prolonged the disease, it has continued the economic slowdown and continued the curtailment of freedom.

But fundamentally it falls on its face because it only considers freedom in a single direction – freedom for themselves rather than freedom for all.  You may be free to go maskless and risk your own health, but you are assuming the freedom to risk other people’s health too and that is where this notion falls down.  They have mistaken freedom for tyranny.

In the case of slavery, that was tyranny by a voting majority or numerical minority and in the case of vaccines and masks, it is tyranny by a minority.  In this case – cruel, unreasonable, and arbitrary use of power or control.

By refusing to protect others, you are exercising an arbitrary form of power and control over others.  You don’t have the right to that power – you have simply taken it.  And the government has a legitimate purpose in arbitrating the points where people’s freedoms clash.

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About The Author

David Greenwald is the founder, editor, and executive director of the Davis Vanguard. He founded the Vanguard in 2006. David Greenwald moved to Davis in 1996 to attend Graduate School at UC Davis in Political Science. He lives in South Davis with his wife Cecilia Escamilla Greenwald and three children.

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31 thoughts on “Monday Morning Thoughts: Your Freedom’s My Guillotine”

  1. Alan Miller

    And the government has a legitimate purpose in arbitrating the points where people’s freedoms clash.

    And the government has done a smashing job of it!  😐

    Would the government have this legitimate purpose if it were run by either party?

    Being a Republican, one will tell you, “a Republican is about individual liberty and personal freedom.”

    You’re a Republican?

    “I hold that this Government was made on the white basis, by white men, for the benefit of white men and their posterity forever, and should be administered by white men and none others,”

    Yeah well the guy was a bigot and an a-hole.

    What about black persons who are not getting the shot due to the history of using black people as guinea pigs in medical experiments (possibly one reason 10-percentage points more white people than black people are getting the vaccine by population in CA).  Is that their right, even if it infringes on other’s freedoms?

    They forget that their right not to wear a mask infringes on my right to go to a public place without exposing myself to the risk of getting sick.

    Have you been to a restaurant in Berkeley, Davis, San Francisco, hot beds of left-ism?  Packed with people not wearing masks “while eating”.  It’s not like the virus takes a holiday when people are packed in a room eating.  Some places have even discontinued their outdoor seating (like Black Bear Diner) because people want to eat indoors.

    As I’ve said repeatedly, a majority of Republicans are vaccinated, and there aren’t many of them in Davis.  All the anti-vaccination people I know in Davis are more the left-leaning alternative-health types.  Of which I include myself to a degree, just not to the degree of not getting vaccinated for this pandemic.  But the reality is in Davis, if you see unvaccinated people as the threat, you are probably talking about left-leaning people.

    Or people who want to eat a meal indoors just because they WANT to. Or can’t wear a mask without it dropping off their nose.

    But you’d rather make it about Republicans, white males and slavery.

    1. Richard_McCann

      Alan

      You are making this about the exceptions and not the rules. Yes, people are eating indoors but many are still eating taking out, or eating outdoors. And one only needs to go to other communities that are of a generally different political persuasion to see being unmasked (and unvaccinated) is much more prevalent.

      And yes, Blacks also must get vaccinated regardless of their lack of trust in the health care system. We have to rebuild that trust, but that’s part of a bigger issue.

      And government is the only peaceful means that we have to arbitrating conflicting freedoms. Do you have another non violent suggestion that can be done on a societal wide scale? As David points out, imposing one’s own “freedom” in a manner that limits anther’s without any rationale, discourse or negotiation is tyranny, not freedom. The analogy to slavery is dead on.

      1. Alan Miller

        people are eating indoors but many are still eating taking out, or eating outdoors.

        “many” are vaccinated.  As I said, so few people want to eat indoors that BBD shut down their outdoor seating.  I was by a favorite haunt on a warm evening recently, and EVERYONE was eating indoors, despite an outdoor eating area.

        Blacks also must get vaccinated

        OK, you tell them, I’m not.  And while you’re at it tell the anti-vaxx conservatives and the anti-vaxx consprituality progressives.

        We have to rebuild that trust

        Good luck with that.

        And one only needs to go to other communities that are of a generally different political persuasion to see being unmasked (and unvaccinated) is much more prevalent.

        True . . . and much more prevalent in Davis and San Francisco is people walking their dogs alone in a park with a mask.  That serves no one.  Not even the dog.

        imposing one’s own “freedom” in a manner that limits anther’s without any rationale, discourse or negotiation is tyranny, not freedom.

        I’m not sure we can force someone to put a substance in their body, or if that’s a trend we want.  Certainly the freedoms of the unvaxxed can and will be limited by their choice.  But only to the degree there is enforcement.

        AND THE GOVERNMENT ISN’T HELPING!

        Probably the #1 thing that would work is to have a universal electronic passport to confirm full vaccination and track necessary boosters (you think it’s bad now, wait until people are required to prove boosters).  But the government chickened out on that.  Even California.

        So we have minimum wage employees glancing at vaccine cards and that’s supposed to inspire confidence that everyone in a place is vaccinated?  I doubt the checkers care, read the name, know how to check if its legit, or enforce — they aren’t cops.  Or witness the concert-goers at that Houston festival stampeding the vaxx-check station and running it over.  A older woman checking vaccine cards criticized a friend for her electronic verification on her phone – “what good is that?” because she doesn’t get smart phones.  I was at an event recently where a guy was openly bragging that he got in using a fake vaccine card.  I’m sure this is rampant, and will become more so.

        But why did California chicken out on electronic passports?

  2. Ron Oertel

    No one (who believes in “freedom” as it relates to masks or vaccinations) is going to be influenced by this article.  In fact, they won’t even see it.

    Publish it up there in the local State of Jefferson blog.

    (In case no one’s noticed, I’m apparently on a “State of Jefferson” kick.)

    But Alan M. is right, in that this isn’t always a conservative issue. So, you might reach of few of the local die-hards who’ve already made up their minds, but I doubt it.

    It’s sort of like the housing articles, in that few who read this are going to say to themselves, “hmm – what an excellent point you’ve made, and not one I’ve thought about before”.

    1. David Greenwald Post author

      I feel the need to make this response… It’s like you don’t understand the concept of Google. It’s the exact reason we have to make the policy change on naming of people accused of crimes because once it gets into the google feed, people find it. I probably get at least 10 emails a week from people we report on their cases – how do you think they find it? It’s not because they normally read this site.

      There’s another problem with your comment – aside from being rude and unduly dismissive without actually making a substantive point – it misses that the purpose of opinion journalism is not generally to change people’s minds. Certainly it’s not to change the minds of people who have already made them up.

      Other than trying to be dismissive of my piece this morning – what purpose does your comment serve?

      1. Ron Oertel

        I feel the need to make this response… It’s like you don’t understand the concept of Google.

        Probably a reason for anyone to avoid commenting on here, using their real names at least.

        Other than trying to be dismissive of my piece this morning – what purpose does your comment serve?

        When I saw your headline (and I’ve seen this type of statement before), it struck me as rather self-centered.  “Everyone else has to do XX, to make me feel safe”.

        People have already made their decisions as to how they view masks and vaccinations.  They generally have the information at this point, and don’t care how you feel about it. (Not just you, personally.)

        The other problem is the one that Alan M. essentially pointed out, where you start out with dead white men, blah, blah, blah.

        By the way, is the young female in your photo a “person of color”? (I’m making two assumptions here, one regarding gender, and one regarding possible skin color. Both are probably major faux pas, in your view.)

        I put forth suggestions all the time, regarding how you might expand the scope of your coverage of issues.

        1. David Greenwald Post author

          Respond to two points here…

          “When I saw your headline (and I’ve seen this type of statement before), it struck me as rather self-centered. “Everyone else has to do XX, to make me feel safe”.”

          You don’t get the reference – but that’s okay. It is somewhat obscure. And yes, I was flipping the point – which is – the anti-vaxer/ masker crowd is screaming freedom but it’s a might make right type freedom.

          Second: “People have already made their decisions, as to how they view masks and vaccinations. They generally have the information at this point, and don’t care how you feel about it.”

          That’s nonsense. There is a fluid middle here granted small and shrinking who hasn’t made up their mind. But more importantly there is a real battle over the narrative and this piece attacks the narrative that has emerged on this. It’s a narrative based on a very limited conception of freedom that nevertheless sounds good and compelling until you unpack.

          You still haven’t touched the substance of this piece. You’ve chosen to attack that the fact that it’s here rather than make any substantive claim against it.

        2. Ron Oertel

          And yes, I was flipping the point – which is – the anti-vaxer/ masker crowd is screaming freedom but it’s a might make right type freedom.

          I don’t think that’s true.  I don’t think they have a lot of “might”.

          But truth be told, I just don’t have a lot of energy or concern about fighting them. And, I do see their point regarding being essentially forced to inject a foreign substance into their bodies, created by profit-pursuing companies. (The more I hear regarding the arguments, the more inclined I am to let people make up their own minds – regardless of the consequences. Perhaps if it was a deadlier disease and there weren’t already vaccines I would have a different opinion.)

          There is a fluid middle here granted small and shrinking who hasn’t made up their mind.

          Hard to believe, but maybe so.  Perhaps some were waiting to see if the vaccine causes problems.

          You still haven’t touched the substance of this piece. You’ve chosen to attack that the fact that it’s here rather than make any substantive claim against it.

          What substance?

          Slavery was bad?  Check.

          It would be better if everyone (who can be) was vaccinated?  Check.

           

           

          1. David Greenwald Post author

            “I don’t think that’s true. I don’t think they have a lot of “might”.”

            You don’t need a lot of might when you refuse vaccinate and represent a threat to people’s health.

            “What substance? Slavery was bad? Check. It would be better if everyone (who can be) was vaccinated? Check.”

            Is this whole thing going over your head? Talking about the conception of freedom – positive versus negative.

        3. Ron Oertel

          You’re equating the “freedom” to enslave other people, with the “freedom” to refuse a vaccine.  (You’re right, in that this comparison is “going over my head”.)

          There’s another factor, as well (which is influencing my budding opinion).  It’s a global epidemic, and much of the world has not been vaccinated.  As such, the virus will continue to mutate, regardless.

          1. David Greenwald Post author

            No – I’m using the example of how freedom presents itself with a conflict at times between the rights of one group and the rights of the other. One person’s freedom is another person’s tyranny. That’s why the founding fathers were very much concerned with concepts such tyranny of the majority.

        4. Ron Oertel

          We do live in a society, so I’ll give you that.

          If this was a deadlier epidemic (and wasn’t global in nature), I’d probably be more concerned about what my neighbor is doing.

          Much of the world still isn’t vaccinated.  As such, the virus will continue to mutate.  It seems likely that it will be a permanent part of the landscape.

        5. Richard_McCann

          Ron O

          You are confused about what freedom is being demanded to be exercised, and David has is exactly right. The freedom being demand is the right to impose one’s own health risks on other people. That’s why this is akin to slavery where the freedom demanded was the right to impose the desire for economic gains on another by removing their autonomy. It also the same as the demand to ride motorcycles without a helmet which imposes the cost of head injuries on others who pay for the health care system. The same goes demanding the right to drive without liability insurance.

          As for the lethality of COVID, I’m not sure why you’re dismissing the deaths of at least 700,000 Americans (and the actual count likely is 20%+ higher: 
          https://journals.plos.org/plosmedicine/article?id=10.1371/journal.pmed.1003571)
          I’m not sure what criteria you are using, but we have auto safety regulations in place to mitigate a risk that is about one-tenth of COVID. Your irrational dismissal of risks is like those who refuse to acknowledge the many risks in their lives that they should address such as obesity or smoking. When these risks impose deadly or costly burdens on others than others are entitled to step in and demand that those risks either be controlled or that the individuals leave for someone else.

           

      2. Bill Marshall

        it misses that the purpose of opinion journalism is not generally to change people’s minds. Certainly it’s not to change the minds of people who have already made them up.

        So, now we know what the purpose of “opinion journalism” is NOT, what, in your view, IS the purpose?

        Honest question…

         

        1. Bill Marshall

          Virtue signaling, perhaps?

          Had to look that up… got it… looks right…

          Had to look up “decarceration” the other day… (another thread)

          Like the old Readers’ Digest, ‘Pays to increase your word power’… I still remember a word that used to mean a cigarette (particularly circa early 1900’s… ‘Pack up your troubles in your old kit bag’ lyrics) or a piece of wood, and now is verboten to be written… similar for a word that used to mean “happy/care free”, now has different meaning…

          Of course, this may be considered non-PC, although am typing it on a PC…

          Harder and harder to keep up with the morphing of words, new (bit-) coinage, and WTF abbreviations…

          [Does laptop now mean something like lapdance? Never mind… moving on]

           

  3. Bill Marshall

    David… equating resistance to vaccination, resistance to masking, distancing, to “white male privilege” is BS…  how do you explain “female white” resistance (very virulent, excusing the pun), reluctance by Blacks, Latinx, other “POC’s” in the context of WMP?

    Have heard that many Blacks remember the Tuskeegee syphillis “experiments”, for example…

    “Progressives” and “Conservatives” are fairly equally against vaccinations, infringement on their “liberties” (note I did not choose the word “freedoms”).

    The use of the headline term “guillotine” is weird… that device was meant as a ‘humane’ way of executing criminals or “enemies of the state”… yet, you imply that folk hesitant to get vaccinated, mask, social distancing are “enemies of YOUR ‘state'”.

    I write this as someone who, early on, chose to be vaccinated, wear the mask and social distance when appropriate, based on science.

    I also believe Tyson Foods is justifiably “free” to require vaccination for all employees, with few exemptions… same for CA Dept of Corrections… the employees have the freedom and liberty to decline, and resign, or be fired… “freedom”… I am against lining all citizens (or, non-citizens) up against the wall to be innoculated/receive vaccine, under duress.

    Being employed by another is NOT a God-given right (despite some labor unions’ claims to the contrary)…

    You were more than a bit “over the top” in your “journalistic opinion” piece here… which is your right…

     

    1. David Greenwald Post author

      “David… equating resistance to vaccination, resistance to masking, distancing, to “white male privilege” is BS… ”

      I didn’t expect the argument to go over your head too. I wasn’t equating the two, I was using the example to illustrate conceptions of freedom.

    2. Richard_McCann

      “Progressives” and “Conservatives” are fairly equally against vaccinations

      That’s not factually true. Please provide a survey that supports this statement. All of the polls I’ve seen say the opposite.

      1. Bill Marshall

        That’s not factually true. Please provide a survey that supports this statement. All of the polls I’ve seen say the opposite.

        Cite them.  To support your contention that what I wrote is “not factually true”… you raised the ‘issue’, you may lead the dance.

         

         

  4. Ron Oertel

    The freedom being demand is the right to impose one’s own health risks on other people. That’s why this is akin to slavery where the freedom demanded was the right to impose the desire for economic gains on another by removing their autonomy.

    Yikes.

    Do you think you can fit any reference to Nazis in there, as well?  Not sure on which side, though – those forcing vaccinations, or those resisting them. Actually, it’s starting to sound like the former side is closer to that.

    Who was that guy – Dr. Mengele was it?

    1. Bill Marshall

      Yikes.
      Do you think you can fit any reference to Nazis in there, as well?  Not sure on which side, though – those forcing vaccinations, or those resisting them. Actually, it’s starting to sound like the former side is closer to that.
      Who was that guy – Dr. Mengele was it?

      Yikes, indeed…

      Your equation is as bad, or worse than David’s… at least he tried to explain, in the manner of “I know you believe what you think I wrote, but I’m not sure you realize what you read is not what I meant”

      I know that you believe you understand what you think I said, but… – Quote (yourdictionary.com)

      1. Ron Oertel

        It wasn’t David that I was responding to.  It was the guy who wrote this:

        That’s why this is akin to slavery where the freedom demanded was the right to impose the desire for economic gains on another by removing their autonomy.

        How does that relate to vaccine mandates?

        And given that Dr. Mengele forced others to undergo medical treatments, I’d suggest that this is more similar to vaccine mandates, than what Richard wrote.

        But it wasn’t meant to be taken literally. I’m not against mandates (e.g., as a condition of employment at some places).

        But again, I’m not so focused on whether or not those I might run into are vaccinated. I just assume that they’re not and take reasonable precautions. And if that, combined with being vaccinated myself are not sufficient, then I’ll probably survive the disease, anyway. Who knows if one would necessarily even have symptoms.

    1. Don Shor

      Which state currently has the lowest COVID infection rates?

      The answer is Florida which has no mask or vaccine mandates.

      What’s your source for that?
      Rate of coronavirus (COVID-19) cases in the United States as of November 8, 2021, by state(per 100,000 people):
      https://www.statista.com/statistics/1109004/coronavirus-covid19-cases-rate-us-americans-by-state/
      7-day average cases:
      https://usafacts.org/visualizations/coronavirus-covid-19-spread-map/

      1. Hiram Jackson

        Keith Olson: “Which state currently has the lowest COVID infection rates?

        “The answer is Florida which has no mask or vaccine mandates.”

        A more relevant question to ask is what is the death rate in Florida due to COVID?  Back in August Florida had a pretty average rate compared to the rest of the U.S., and New Jersey and New York were number 1 and 2, according to NY Times stats.  New Jersey and New York got slammed at the beginning of the pandemic when there was no vaccine and masks were hard to come by.

        Now Florida is #8 at 281 deaths per 100,000 (U.S. average is 228).  And #1 is Mississippi, then Alabama (#2), then Louisiana (#3), and Arkansas is #7, with several other red states currently rising.  All of them were and are big about touting no mask or vaccine mandates.  Tens of thousands of deaths is a tall price to pay to try to make some significant statement about no mandates.

        Interestingly, many of those same southern states have the most strict mandates about children getting vaccinated before they can go to schools.

  5. Alan Miller

    So if I get the lesson from today’s “opinion journalism” (I’ll be using that a lot) correct, the vaccinated should be fighting a literal all-out armed war against the unvaccinated, and an amendment to the constitution should be passed — after the vaccinated win the war — requiring that everyone be vaccinated against pandemic viruses.  Do I have that about correct?

    Jab that arm that won’t be jabbed!

  6. Ron Oertel

     

    Blacks also must get vaccinated.

    OK, you tell them, I’m not.  And while you’re at it tell the anti-vaxx conservatives and the anti-vaxx consprituality progressives.

    I’d let Big Bird do the talking.

    Big Bird endorsing vaccines for kids ruffles conservative feathers (msn.com)

    Or, how about Ronald McDonald?

    At this point, I’m hoping that climate change gets all of us. Maybe suddenly, like it did with the dinosaurs.

    With only Elon Musk and crew surviving, on their way to Mars. All genetically superior beings, so they don’t make the same mistakes.

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