Children of Liberty: Freedom vs. licenseWritten by Scott Allegrini | | email@example.com
Recently, I survived my 11th Black Friday, the busiest shop-
ping day of the year. Working in retail this time of year is amazing because I never know what I will witness. There were hundreds of people waiting to get “the deals.” The biggest Black Friday 2012 sensation was $25 video games, normally $59, so it was a great deal for avid gamers.
With the sale beginning at 8 p.m., people lined up as early as 5 p.m., and as sale time approached, the lines grew and the demeanor of those standing in line became tense. People tried to cut in line while countless others tried to sneak around the back, hoping to just grab a game and run.
The potential to lose control of the anxious crowd grew, and two police officers began to intervene. With their best authoritative voices, they told the customers how things were going to proceed as 8 p.m. approached. The amazing thing was that once the sale started, the crowd followed the police officers’ directions, and the sale went off without any rushing, fights or punches thrown. That was good news — this would not be the Black Friday that would land our retail location in the headlines.
As I reflected on the “good news” of the day, I realized that this news was in reality, not so good at all. The demeanor of the crowd that I experienced, along with the necessary intervention of the law, was quite indicative of the state of the culture.
The experience proved that if citizens are unable to regulate themselves and act in a civilized way, it is necessary to have an outside agency control their actions. Americans are fond of talking about wanting freedom and how “rights” are deserved, but those same people forget that with those freedoms and rights comes the acceptance of responsibilities.
In today’s society, Americans mistake “license” for freedom.
When people “take license,” they believe they can do whatever they want with no limits. License is the throwing off of all responsibility. It is carte blanche to do as one feels, because one wants to. It is a very selfish and childish way to live life. In this manner, right and wrong is derived from self-interest, with no regard for the effects of actions on others or on society.
Freedom is having the choice to do what ought to be done. Freedom means doing what one is meant to do, but freedom has to have boundaries and responsibilities. The challenge of freedom is accepting the responsibility of to act in a way that can support and nurture a society that allows freedom to flourish.
If people want freedom, they have to accept the responsibility that comes along with it. There is a reason that freedom has been such a rarity throughout human history, because it is hard. License is much easier because one just does whatever one feels like doing, without worrying about anyone else.
So there is a choice. Do people accept responsibility for the effects that their actions have on others and society in general, or do they just do what they feel like doing?
Choosing freedom is the only way that the nation can continue to grow. My grandfather’s family did not come here so that they could do whatever they felt like, they came here because they recognized that in the United States, if they worked hard and followed the rules, they could achieve the American Dream and become the best version of themselves. That is the attraction to freedom — the opportunity to work hard and reap the rewards that come from becoming the best version of oneself.
If society continues to digress into a culture of license, history shows this will lead to an authority dictating people’s actions, because they can’t. License leads to hundreds of people willing to do anything in order to get a cheap video game. What happens to others is not of concern, as long as they get the video game. This approach always leads to the same ending, an authority controlling actions. When people cannot control their own actions, authority steps in, whether it’s parents, teachers, neighbors or, eventually, the state. If society continues down this path, it ends with the police controlling the actions of the people.
So I ask you to think about how much you value freedom. Because if citizens want to keep freedom, they need to act in a way worthy of it, and accept that there are times when people must act selflessly and in ways that will create a better society, even if that means we don’t get our way or the cheap video game.
Email columnist Scott Allegrini at firstname.lastname@example.org.