Wednesday - July 26, 2006

Category Image What is Freedom?

There are a lot of confusing things said about freedom. Ayn Rand once remarked several decades ago on the vapid thoughts of young Americans who thought people in the USSR were "free" because they were allowed to listen to rock and roll, even though they had no political rights, their professions and property were controlled by the state, and they could be stood up against a wall and shot or sent to a gulag on the slightest pretense.

This perverse understanding of freedom is now changing how we view our own freedoms. We've had the Supreme Court tell us the state can take away our property and our land and give it to big companies to use for their profits. We are told how much money we can spend on expressing our political speech. We've been told that some of our speech is "hateful" and thus illegal. Heck, the government finds it in their power to design our toilets for us and forbids us to use ones that are reliable. The encroachments to our freedoms are growing far beyond my ability to enumerate here.

Now in the news is a new assault on our freedom. We no longer can choose our medical care.

A family in Virginia, perhaps for religious reasons, does not want their son to receive chemotherapy for Hodgkins disease. The son agrees. They want to control the disease with a special, well actually not that special, diet.

First, let me say that these people are kooks. Hodgkins is a disease that many people survive by using chemotherapy. Anyone not taking advantage of available cures is a fool.

But aren't we supposed to be in a free country? If you aren't free to choose how you treat a disease, if you can't choose to make a value judgement on whether or not you want to suffer the side effects of chemotherapy, if you can't comply with devoutly held religious beliefs (no matter how misguided or foolish), then you aren't free.

I don't agree with this foolish boy and his irresponsible parents. I have little sympathy for any religion, especially a religion that denies the benefits of medical science, but the nature of logic is that it can only be discerned through disciplined thinking. I wish all people had disciplined thinking and were able to act logically, but free people should not be forced to be logical.

If we can't form our own thoughts and act according to them, then we are no longer free. There was once a time when Americans understood this. It appears that we no longer do.

Post Script

A judge has granted a stay on the forced treatment of the young man in question. I'm sorry that this boy may die, but I rejoice at his newly granted, as if it were something to be granted, freedom to choose how he confronts his illness and even his death. We'll have to wait and see what the appeals courts decide about which of our freedoms we're allowed to retain.

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