Monday, May 11, 2009

Freedom Isn't Free

I have been told this a million times by people I would argue with about the Iraq War, or any number of other things. My dad pointed out something once awhile back that made me realize all those Republicans were absolutely right, but in ways they did not expect.

While we were down fishing in South Texas, we came out of a restaurant and there was a women with a Freedom Isn't Free t-shirt and she was getting into a Hummer. My dad looked at her and said "of course it isn't free when you act like that." What he meant was that her lifestyle, her freedom to live that lifestyle, required immense amounts of sacrifice and energy on the part of the people of this country and the world and that for her to live as she pleased it cost someone else their freedom.

He was absolutely right. Our tendency in the US is to conduct our foreign policy with a mixture of American Exceptionalism (the idea that not only are we different and great but that everyone else thinks we are too), isolationism, and expansionism. The last two points, while seeming contradictory, actually present the real meat of the argument. We are isolationist in our complete disregard for international opinion and our commitment to unilateral action, while the average citizen does not take active interests in foreign affairs. We are expansionist in that our isolationist attitudes combined with our high level of consumption requires our government to go on a never-ending search for materials.

This search that gives us a massive share of the world's resources, is what makes our freedom not free-the cost is in the lives and freedom of others. Our complete failure to recognize the cost of our resource-gathering and international exploitation has made us rich but has made us insecure today. Think of us as the money-lender who is surrounded by people he defrauded. I am not using this to say that we have never done great things for the world, but that, regardless of those great things, we have done them with strings attached.

Now back to that women with the "Freedom Isn't Free" shirt. She was representative of our society that has turned a blind eye to a world's sufferings while continuing to use its resources. Freedom is not free because our freedom comes at a great cost to others. Our freedom to consume without restraint, to pollute, to exploit, to use up other's share so that we can continue to live in our borrowed prosperity is costing us, although we have treated it the same as everything else we do: put it on our credit cards.

So those so-called conservatives were right. Freedom isn't free, yet it is so costly because the preservation of our way of life comes at a great cost to others.

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