Cry Freedom

I was running with a friend one early morning recently when he started complaining about the gradual, seemingly inevitable, decline of freedom in the U.S. It takes a whole village, government intrusion, I’ve heard it all before, but this time I snapped.

“FOR EXAMPLE?” “Well, making fast food restaurants list the calorie count for every item on their menus.” “Wow, that is egregious, giving consumers more information to make better decisions. Maybe we should go into grocery stores and remove the same nutritional information from all the canned goods and other items. What else?” “Forcing people to wear helmets.”

I guess he’s correct, if by freedom we mean more specifically the right to eat crap without knowing it and the right to crack our heads open when we fall off our bicycles and motorcycles.

Then over breakfast, I kicked on National Public Radio and listened to Kasha Jacqueline Nabagesera’s story. Nabagesera has just been awarded an international human rights award for fighting for LGBT rights in Uganda where homosexuality is illegal. Earlier this year, her closest colleague, David Kato, was killed, most people believe, for being openly gay.

And then we have the stirring examples of Tunisian, Egyptian, Yemenis, and Syrian democracy protestors willing to die so that their fellow citizens might have the right to assemble, vote, and speak freely.

The U.S. is imperfect, but thanks to our constitution, we can assemble, vote, and speak freely about our right to eat crappy food and crack our heads open. And we can choose where and how to live, work, worship, and raise our children.  We can criticize our elected officials without fear of reprisal and we can tweet and blog until our heart’s content.

Maybe Glenn Beck and Bill O’Reilly should lead an Arab Awakening tour abroad so that my right wing nutter friend and his friends can better appreciate the freedom they seemingly take for granted.

Libertarian Cubism

Ever seen a plexiglass smoke cubicle in an international airport? Tiny with a few stools around a high table. Need a smoke? No need to leave the airport, just pop into a smoke cube and spark up. Sparking up is not really necessary though because you can easily get your nicotine fix just by breathing in the Cheech and Chong second hand cloud. Visibility is about a foot so you have to look very closely to see anyone. I can’t fathom sitting next to a smoke cuber in coach on an international flight.

Smoke cubes are an interesting libertarian solution to individual differences. In essence, airport officials are saying, “Go crazy smokers with .01% of the airport.” Apart from higher group health care costs, why should government limit people’s freedom to fill their lungs with carcinogens, suffer more health problems, and probably die prematurely?

Maybe we should embrace libertarian cubism and extend their use. For example, in the Pacific Northwest we could use some “the weather is depressing” cubes for people like Y-guy who I heard complaining vociferously this morning, the first cloudy/rainy day in recent memory. Pacific Northwest summers are idyllic, sunny and in the 70’s, but some people like Y-guy never get enough vitamin D and consequently suffer from perpetual Seasonal Affective Disorder. The chronically SAD. This morning Y-guy tried to put a damper on my life-giving swim workout by proclaiming, “Hell, it will probably rain for the next 11 months!”

Just as Y-guy should be free to smoke, he should be free to be a walking, talking, downward spiral of negativity and pessimism. I just don’t want to be subjected to his depressing monologue. What if we had a “weather is depressing” cube in the Y locker room for Y-guy and his equally depressing friends?

What other examples of libertarian cubism would you like to see introduced in your neighborhoods, workplaces, and surrounding environs?