There’s a cliché that was running through my head today: Freedom is messy. You have to accept that when you have the right to do something that makes you happy or makes your life better, someone else can exercise that right in a way that you don’t like.
Our freedom to own guns means that others have the freedom to not own guns, or even to believe that guns are evil.
Our freedom to speak out also means that someone else can speak out against us.
Our freedom to vote as citizens means that others can vote for causes and candidates we oppose.
Our freedom to worship means that others have the right to worship differently, or not at all.
That being said, their rights end where ours begin. Their freedom to choose to not own guns does not give them the right to demand that we not own them. Their decision to not be religious should not preclude us from worshipping, even if it is in the public square. And above all, their politics and all that they entail should not be used as a cudgel to drive our politics out of that public square.
We must guard that we don’t use our outrage at those with whom we disagree as an excuse to try to drive them away from the debate. When Bob Costas chose to express his opinion on guns the other night, I disagreed with him, and I wasn’t alone. Some of us were quite vociferous in our disagreement, and thankfully, some were quite eloquent at it. Some, on the other hand, expressed an opinion that Mr. Costas and Mr. Whitlock should not have expressed their beliefs on the subject. To me, this is a dangerous way to look at it. We must guard against becoming what we oppose, even if it means that things we don’t agree with get a wide audience.
I read a story once about how before Caesar was opposed by Cato on some issue on the floor of the Senate. Cato chose to try to run out the clock on the issue by talking at length in front of the Senate. In order to force the issue, Caesar had men come in and drag Cato down from the speaker’s platform, an act that shocked the other senators. It was undignified and sacrilegious to men who considered the political process to be sacred. As Cato was led out, the rest of the Senate walked out with him, including senators who supported Caesar. One of them told Caesar “I’d rather be in jail with Cato than here with you.”
Our rights are as sacred to me as the Republic was to those senators. When someone opposes me, so long as they don’t intrude on my rights, I will respect their right to do so. We are not at the point where our institutions are useless, nor are we at the point where disagreement leads to revolution. Until we reach that point, we need to respect the fact that others have the same rights as we do, even if that means swallowing our pride and working harder. I would rather be locked in an eternal debate with the anti’s and Obama supporters than be locked into step with people who demand that others not exercise their right to oppose us.