Commentary: Patriotism and freedom: The two most misused terms in U.S. politics

Two of the most frequently used words in right-wing America, “freedom” and “Constitution,” are also among the most misused. Many American conservatives believe the “Constitution” gives them the “freedom” to do just about anything they like. They are free to own guns and carry them openly, free to refuse to be vaccinated, free to refuse to wear masks in public places, free to refuse to accept the results of a free and fair election, and, to some, even free to invade government buildings and threaten those who work there with violence or death. Combining the two, these conservatives are convinced that anyone who asserts such “freedom” in the name of the “Constitution” is a “patriot.” From a moral or philosophical perspective, there are any number of flaws in this argument. The first and most obvious is that absolute freedom for everyone is impossible. Almost by definition, absolute freedom for some means diminished freedom for others. If, for example, potentially COVID-infected people are free to refuse vaccinations or mask mandates and swarm into schools or other public places, those who fear contracting the disease have their freedom of movement limited. And so, the “personal freedom” currently extolled by, among others, Govs. Greg Abbott of Texas and Ron DeSantis of Florida, is merely the freedom for their supporters to curtail the freedom of others, although it is never expressed in those terms. As the pandemic worsened and the disastrous impact of the “personal freedom” argument became apparent, some conservatives began to […]

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