March 12, 2024


I grew up in a region known for being politically and socially conservative. The churches displayed American flags inside the sanctuary. We pledged allegiance in school every morning. People talked a lot about patriotism and freedom, especially freedom as in, "America, land of the free." Freedom meant that we could choose any religion (or no religion), that we could read (or write) any books we wanted, that we could listen to (or perform) the music we liked, and enjoy (or create) whatever artworks we chose. It meant we were free to choose where to live, whether or not to marry, how many children to have (including none), what kind of career to pursue, what clothes to wear, what food to eat, etc.

A saying that was popular in that time and place was, "Your freedom to swing your fist ends where my nose begins," meaning that we were free to do what we wanted, as long as we didn't interfere with someone else's freedom to do what they wanted. We were taught to "tolerate" the existence of other religions and people whose way of thinking or way of living was different from ours. "Freedom" was a concept that applied to everyone.

Today, those ideas seem to have changed within the "conservative" community. Many people now define freedom as not tolerating those who are different They seem to believe that the existence of someone whose beliefs or choices are different is an affront to their own beliefs and choices. They want to swing their not-always-metaphorical fists squarely into the noses of those whose very being offends them. They will not feel free until everyone else complies.


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