Freedom is a luxury.
Throughout history, few people have lived as free as people do today and, yet, that freedom is far from assured.
Your freedom is at risk, right now, from enemies.
The enemies are within and without, to be sure, but the greatest risk to freedom is from yourself.
Think guns are your best defense against a hostile government.
Your best defense is to elect excellent, thoughtful, honest leaders and guard yourself against manipulation. History would suggest you are much more likely to be manipulated into turning those guns against the very democracy they are intended to defend, and even more likely to kill someone you love.
Think your beliefs should be others' beliefs.
What about their freedom? Would you want to be forced to believe what they do? Who elected you to make that decision?
Believe that there are always two sides to an argument.
Usually there are many sides, some better than others. Sometimes, there is really only one side, the side of factual truth.
Fall for false dichotomies:
"You're either with me or you're against me." Actually, I'm with you but maybe not for that damned fool idea you have.
Accept liars for leaders.
Unfortunately, we discourage honesty every time we don't call out our leaders for their deceptions. That is what a vigorous and free press is for.
Think "infotainment" is news.
If your primary news source is Fox News (highly biased) or MSNBC (trying to compete with Fox so almost as useless, if more factually correct), it's time to change the channel. Actually, turn off the TV and read one of the "newspapers of record" like the New York Times, Washington Post, or Los Angeles Times, or get your news from Reuters directly. Try a few foreign sources, too.
Fail to check facts.
This is especially a problem when there are differing claims by more than one source.
Listen to what you want to hear and ignore the rest.
This is called confirmation bias and it's a powerful tool of manipulation. "Lowering taxes will reduce the deficit." No, it won't. Why don't you take a pay cut and see how your credit card bills fare. I could write a whole article on basic economics about this, so I'll just stop now.
Place blame on someone else for life's problems.
"It's those illegal aliens stealing my jobs." So, now you want to pick strawberries for minimum wage? Go for it.
Think that money is the primary motivator for highly successful people.
Money is a way of keeping score, as is power. When you fall for the lie that rich, successful, people won't work if they don't get to keep even more of their money, you give your power to them. Power you need to protect your freedom.
Vote for people with an inherent conflict of interest.
Do you vote for rich guys who promise to lower taxes on other rich guys and you wonder why life isn't better for you?
Think that a lie, repeated often enough, is the truth.
This was how the Nazi's did their dirty work, and Stalin, too. You've got an internet connection. Go get the facts from trustworthy sources.
Believe unreliable sources.
The first responsibility of freedom is to defend it with truth. "Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me." or the G.W. Bush version paraphrasing The Who, "Fool me once…I won't get fooled again." Close enough.
Mistake people who disagree with you for enemies.
"We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union…" Read those words carefully - we, united, union. We are all in this together, neighbors, friends, and compatriots. We may disagree on how best to run the country but we either stand together or we fall together (yeah, that's probably a false dichotomy but you get my point).
Fail to accurately determine the threats to democracy.
When you allow those with interests that are at odds with your interests to influence you, you surrender your freedoms and mine. Corporations with "personhood" rights whose only moral value, by law, is profit, and ultra-rich individuals heavily funding various self-interested political activities, come to mind.
Believe that when you are rich that you would want your taxes lowered, too.
What percentage of the people you know personally have gone from an average income level to over a $1,000,000 a year? Zero, right? Do me a favor, call me when you make it. I'll fly wherever you are and buy you a drink.
Hate someone for who they are when they are not directly threatening you.
Gay, black, Muslim, short, fat, stupid, smart, geeky, Jewish, atheist, or just annoyingly right, anything you do against them makes you an enemy of their freedom. Expect to be treated as such.
Surrender your responsibilities to a "higher power."
God gave you a brain. Use it.
Think that all answers have equal value.
Often, there is a right answer to a question. Not everything is all that open to debate. Gravity, death, and taxes come to mind.
Believe that "the government" is not the same as "we the people."
I worked for the government for over 15 years in various jobs. Never once, in all the thousands of people I knew and met, did I encounter someone who wasn't working hard to make America a better country. Republicans, Democrats, and people of all races, religions, and beliefs all working for you and for America, that's "the government," not some shadowy movie thriller government, but the real one with people just like you in it that can't keep a secret for long.
Believe that freedom means you have to go it alone.
Freedom, at least in America, also means responsibility. A bond between us, an obligation to help one another when things are tough, and to help each of us to make our country better, happier, and healthier. Freedom should also mean we are free to fail, be sick, and not be as able of body or mind as others and still be able to count on our fellow Americans to have our back, just as we would have theirs.
Claim the laws of your religious books supersede the laws of the country.
The peoples of these books, whether the Bible, Koran, or the Rig Veda, did not live under a law in which "life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness" were "inalienable rights." This is a good reason why the separation between church and state is essential. You may choose to give up your rights to your religion but when you may make that choice for others, you are an enemy of freedom.
Attempt to persuade others into giving up their freedoms to you.
When you manipulate people for personal gain at their expense through deception, demagoguery, and lies, you are the mortal enemy of freedom.
Fail to put yourself in another's shoes.
To see freedom from another person's perspective is the only way to understand it. You must imagine what it is like to be the person you hate most and to see life from their perspective. If nothing else, follow the Platinum Rule: Do unto others as they would like done unto themselves.
Believe, as Clint Eastwood recently remarked, that "weighing both sides" is a bad idea.
It's called "thinking" and is a requirement if you expect to maintain your freedom. If you don't want to think, fine, just don't expect freedom at the same time.
Think that truth is unknowable.
That is surrendering your freedom to whomever makes the most emotionally satisfying claim. Fortunately, truth is what science is good at figuring out. Learn about the scientific method and skepticism, then apply it to your life.
Forget how we got where we are.
Political and economic events unfold over a long time so it's not unusual for one President to be saddled with the economy of the previous one. G W Bush inherited the dot com bust from Clinton, then made things much worse for Obama, just to give a recent example. Iran is hostile to the US because we backed the repressive Shah for decades until his violent overthrow - also proving that freedom can be quickly and dramatically reduced. Jews and Philistines (Palestinians) are still at war since the days of the Old Testament. History matters.
Fail to think of the future.
What actions are you taking today that will affect your children and grandchildren? Are you investing in their, and their peers, success, education, and freedom or are you selling it short for your own self-interest? What does your country look like in 50 years? Prosperous and free, or does it simply conform to your beliefs?
Fall for stupid statistics.
"The most expensive disaster in US history," is my favorite. Do you mean the number of dollars is the largest number or that the disaster was largest as a percentage of GDP, for example? The second one matters, the first is just sensational noise.
Fail to recognize other people as human beings with the same "inalienable rights."
We mourn the death of every one of the nearly 4500 US soldiers who died in Iraq. Why not the estimated 115,000+ Iraqi civilians? We've also tried this disdain with blacks, women, and gays. Each time, wrong. This is a fundamental aspect of human nature, to see us vs. them, but it is not a benefit for cause of freedom.
Take it for granted that "America is the land of the free."
Freedom requires hard work and cooperation. It requires sacrificing some of your personal freedom for our collective freedom. It requires intellect, compassion, planning, and money, not sacrificing our freedom to arrogant pride.
Fool yourself by not realizing all the dozens of subtle ways you can be tricked into believing things.
Advertisers, sales people, and politicians use these techniques all the time - and we fall for them all the time - mostly unaware of what is happening. Humans are not rational, clear-thinking machines. As Clint Eastwood probably should have said again recently, but didn't: "A man's got to know his limitations."
Claim you know the truth.
Odds are, about most things, you don't really know the truth. If you are an expert in something, you probably have some truth to convey. Knowing where the border between what you know and what you believe you know helps. Truth, and the discovery of it, are the keys to freedom. For truly, the truth shall set you free.
You are a danger to everyone's freedom every time you…
Did I miss any other common ways we are destroying our freedom? Let me know.