The Recorder - The World Keeps Turning with Columnist Allen Woods: Living in a "Free Country"

By ALLEN WOODS As Americans, we love our freedoms. We brag about them and idealize them, relying on them to support our long-held view ...


As Americans, we love our freedoms. We brag about them and idealize them, relying on them to support our long-held view that the United States is exceptional compared to the rest of the world. We are “the land of the free and the homeland of the brave”.

In the 1700s, the Bill of Rights established exceptional freedoms in the world at the time: freedom of speech, religion and the press; freedom to assemble and bear arms as a member of a militia; the ban on housing troops and unreasonable searches and seizures, etc.

In recent months, with the COVID virus disrupting our lives, I have seen and heard frequent references to vaccination, mask and testing warrants as moving us to a place where we are no longer a “free country”. Even our reliable and moderate Republican governor, Charlie Baker, used the lightning rod phrase in April when he answered questions about his resistance to demanding vaccinations for some government employees: “It is still a free country. last time I checked. (He recently reversed his position.)

But what does it mean to be “free” in such a sprawling, diverse, and interconnected social and political organization as the United States of America? Federal, state and local governments have always placed limits on some of our most idealized freedoms.

In the United States, people are free to express unpopular views unless they involve slander, threatening violence, or inciting people to riot. The press is free to publish controversial material, unless it involves national security or presents false or misleading information.

I believe that even the staunchest gun advocates do not encourage individuals to own tanks and nuclear weapons. People are free to assemble as long as they do not cause a public safety problem like blocking traffic. Confidentiality is guaranteed, unless private actions contribute to criminal activity.

The list of limits to our freedoms is almost endless, from speed limits to noise restrictions, from airline gun controls to elevator capacity limits. So how are vaccinations, masking, and testing different?

Part of the problem is that the virus (especially the Delta variant) and vaccines are so new. The struggle to control other deadly diseases has often taken decades. The vaccines are still under FDA emergency use approval status.

The virus itself mutated just as we started targeting the original form. Many people complain about the “moving objectives” of public health councils (masks or no masks, safety of the youngest, requirements for indoor and outdoor gatherings, etc.), which I consider to be an essential function of the pursuit of the elusive target of a mutating virus.

But in my mind, a bigger problem is our lack of national focus and confidence in our government. Although far from universal, Americans came together during the World Wars, sacrificing many of their personal freedoms to fight a common enemy and protect the broader freedom of our nation.

Today, the idea of ​​sacrificing individual freedoms to help our country is rare. Donald Trump ridiculed personal sacrifice by proudly evading military service and humiliating fallen soldiers and war heroes who disagreed with him. Government mistrust was partly fueled by big lies that spawned deadly, and ultimately unnecessary, wars in Vietnam and Iraq. It’s even hard to trust government health officials who have sporadically abused our trust, with deadly consequences. (Google Tuskegee’s Syphilis Experiment.)

A common formulation of freedom in our society is a quote attributed to many different sources: “The freedom to swing your arm ends at the end of my nose.

My translation: You are free to exercise your individual rights until you endanger others.

In today’s world, with an invisible virus transmitted by droplets in the air, the quote might read: “Your freedom to exhale potentially infectious air ends six feet from the tip of my nose.” . “

On a related note, endangering others by doing a job in the public sector or attending public gatherings and remaining unvaccinated, unmasked, and / or untested, seems ludicrous (with the exception of genuine medical or religious reasons).

I wish we had full certainty about virus transmission and immunity. Until then, all we can do is put aside the well-deserved mistrust of our government and follow the advice of bona fide experts. We must make sacrifices to fight a common enemy that continues to kill millions of people around the world and disrupt every aspect of our lives.

Allen Woods is a freelance writer, author of the revolutionary-era detective story “The Sword and the Scabbard”, and a resident of Greenfield. His column appears monthly on a Saturday. Comments are welcome here or at

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Newsrust - US Top News: The Recorder - The World Keeps Turning with Columnist Allen Woods: Living in a "Free Country"
The Recorder - The World Keeps Turning with Columnist Allen Woods: Living in a "Free Country"
Newsrust - US Top News
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