A Strange Conception of Liberty

by Brendan Beery

In the wake of the gay-marriage ruling in June, the mindless among us are still belching objections about the ruling’s perceived threat to their liberty.

To the mentally untouched, a Supreme Court judgment giving license to a group of people to make their own choices, govern their own lives and destinies, enter into whatever arrangements they find suitable, and participate fully in an institution or contractual union would fairly be characterized as the very embodiment of freedom and liberty. What can freedom and liberty mean if not individual license, choice, and self-governance?

But many Republicans characterize the Supreme Court’s judgment in Obergefell v Hodges as “tyranny” and a threat to liberty. To them, liberty is not something that belongs to all people, but rather to certain individuals. And liberty doesn’t mean freedom to; it means freedom from. To the white, tribal, provincial, mentally cramped, mega-Christian right winger, other people’s choice-making and self-governance are an affront to “freedom” and “liberty.”

That’s because the right-wing agenda is built on evangelism and the subjugation of “the other.” The conservative zealot, with his narcissistic impulse to make the world and everything in it all about him, cannot countenance a set of choices or governing rules conceived by somebody else. To him, rules derived from hidebound books, historical mythologies, and tribal “heritage” are the only rules that will do, and somebody else’s rejection of those rules is a jolting rejection of the conservative’s narcissistic self. The pathological right-winger is no longer whole – which is to say accepted, obeyed, and revered without question. If he cannot exist this way, then he cannot, in any real sense, exist at all. And if he is not free to exist as he wishes, then he is not free at all. This is the right-wing conception of freedom and liberty; right-wingers have invented the remarkable conception of liberty as freedom of dominion.

What can be said about such an upside-down, inside-out worldview? Not much, except that nobody with such a corrupted psyche should ever have any say as to the freedom of others.

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