So a few weeks ago, I read this syndicated opinion column by Thomas Sowell called “Freedom and the left” in my local paper. It stirred me up a bit for various reasons, and it poses a lot of interesting thoughts from a point of view I usually don’t hear about that often (maybe a good reason I’m out of the liberal city life for a while), but it pushed me just enough to sit down and write a letter the editor. From all I can tell, it was never published, so I thought I’d use this as a forum for my retort. While I definitely hope you read opinion, I think Sowell’s, too, is necessary for a nice view on the different ways we all perceive freedom.
My response: Freedom is two-way street.
I was quite taken aback to read syndicated columnist Thomas Sowell’s take on “community service” (Freedom and the left, 19 December 2008) and his condemnation of those on the “left” who support and require such acts for our young people. While there were one or two points worth reading, I felt many of his attacks were half-truths or complete falsehoods that can’t be overlooked.
First, he calls people who are homeless vagrants, ignoring the fact that most homeless are mentally ill, have had their job cut by the employer (not for reasons the worker controlled), or workers who cannot find affordable housing at the meager wages they are paid. Then, using his logic of degrading the homeless, he argues “community service” in a homeless shelter aids vagrancy rather than honors and respects the humanity of those who are shut out of the housing process. He claims (without supporting facts) that the homeless seek food and shelter as “entitlements,” stereotyping the homeless as lazy rather than recognizing the separate root causes that put them in their situation.
However, I felt Sowell’s most egregious error was his one-sided condemnation of the “left” for their lack of supporting freedom by requiring community service by defining freedom as, “the right of other people to do things that you do not approve of.” If this is freedom, then what about the views of those on the “right” around issues like abortion and gay marriage – wouldn’t freedom allow those who wish to abort a fetus that ability and two men to marry, even if one may not approve of it?
Freedom is a two-way street, a fact that Sowell obviously does not recognize; I wonder how many others see freedom in a similar light.