In this belated Thanksgiving post, I’d like to express my appreciation of the rights we still have in America. That is not to say that they come from the government, because I believe that freedom is part of the birthright of all human beings everywhere. Still, to the degree that I don’t need to fear incarceration for speaking my mind, for defending myself and my family, and for refusing arbitrary searches, I’m grateful to the stubborn pro-freedom heritage of my people.
We libertarians sometimes forget that there are a lot of countries that are more stupid and despotic than ours. Though there are certainly several nations with a freer press and better protections against the police, the vast majority are worse. Even those countries with close ties to America, with traits we admire such as sensible policies regarding drugs and sex, are often plagued with idiotic “hate speech” laws. For all that Americans can be smeared, demonized and boycotted for expressing an unpopular opinion – think Donald Sterling, Paula Deen and the Duck Dynasty family – you can’t be fined or arrested, as you could in many European countries, even the UK.
Nor can we be punished for questioning or mocking religion, as in most Muslim-majority countries, or for openly practicing or discussing gay lifestyles, as in Russia. Though the US government has put enormous pressure on whistle blower sites such as Wikileaks, our Internet is not (yet) censored, as in China. In many places, a person can be arrested for questioning the official accounts of the Nazi Holocaust. Personally, I have no desire to deny such atrocities; people who do so are delusional. Yet such laws provide unintentional motivation for neo-Nazis, and can easily chill honest scholarship, in much the same way that Turkey’s laws against defaming the nation prevent people from discussing the Armenian genocide.
Unlike many nations, the US does not have a military draft, and we should be very thankful for that. Conscription is truly a form of slavery that allows governments to pursue aggressive wars despite public opposition, forcing young people to kill and be killed. Even Switzerland, one of the most relatively free countries on Earth, forces its male citizens to be part of its military reserve – though due to that country’s enlightened political neutrality, the mandate is not nearly as onerous as it could be.
Finally, though the police in America can certainly be oppressive and abusive, they have not yet reached the level of corruption as in Mexico and many other places. We’re not yet to the point where a group of college students protesting peacefully could be abducted and murdered en masse. Though Mexico still has its good points, the government’s draconian gun laws are a great atrocity that has, in part, allowed the drug cartels to run roughshod over the people.
As Americans we must appreciate the rights we have left, and use them on every possible occasion. We should not censor ourselves out of fear; we should aggressively defend our ability to speak out. If a “state of emergency” is ever declared, we may be among the first to be detained, but the risk is worth it.