bookmark_borderGun control punishes innocent people

“White supremacy,” the headlines screamed in the days after the Buffalo shooting. Again and again, newspapers went out of their way to mention, as many times as possible, the race of the killer and of the victims. Articles featured quote after quote by so-called experts who pontificated about the growing threat of “right-wing domestic terrorism” and the “toxic beliefs” that allegedly motivated the shooting. Politicians solemnly droned on and on about the “poison” of white nationalism and how it must be eradicated from our society. The common thread among all these sentiments is that they demonstrate a greater interest in condemning and blaming groups of people based on their skin color and/or ideology than in condemning and blaming the shooter himself.

Then came the shooting in Texas. Unable (for the most part) to use this incident to attack white people for their skin color, the political and media establishment opted instead to attack everyone who believes that individual rights should be respected. Just as they have been countless times, the mindless, authoritarian platitudes are repeated ad nauseam. Pro-rights activists are viciously ridiculed for being irrationally “obsessed” with guns. The Republican Party is labeled a “death cult.” Newspaper headlines bemoan the “toll” of gun ownership and the “inaction” of Congress. Laws that actually respect fundamental rights are criticized as “lax” and “weak.” People smugly lecture anyone who will listen that Second Amendment rights apply only if someone is a member of a militia. “Since when is gun ownership a human right?” they derisively ask. (The correct answer: since the beginning of time.) “What clause in the Constitution gives you the right to mow down 10-year-olds with assault weapons?” they scream with a nastiness that is matched only by their idiocy. (The correct answer: none, and no one is arguing that any clause does. Only a moron would equate using a gun to mow down 10-year-olds with merely owning one.) “Enough is enough,” people mindlessly repeat. (My question is: enough of what? Enough of people’s fundamental rights being respected?) Even among Republicans, anti-rights sentiments abound, frequently prefaced by such dishonest statements as “I’m as pro-Second Amendment as they come, but…” Again and again, politicians and activists bemoan the fact that government has “done nothing,” as if it is somehow self-evident that punishing innocent people is the correct response to a tragedy.

Let me tell you unequivocally: punishing innocent people is never the correct response to anything. As I’ve stated before and will continue to repeat as long as there are those who disagree, people have a fundamental right to do anything that they want as long as it does not violate the rights of anyone else. Rights are absolute. You don’t get to take rights away simply because doing so would prevent tragedies from happening. And rights are not contingent upon their exercise being safe or healthy. Rights cannot be violated under any circumstances. Far too often, our society responds to tragedies by violating everyone’s rights in an attempt to prevent similar tragedies from happening again. This punishes everyone for the actions of a few. And punishing innocent people is never OK.

Many people seem to have the idea that if they can just be emphatic enough, or angry enough, or graphic enough in describing a tragedy that has happened, then it will somehow make it clear that innocent people should be punished. I am tired of hearing politicians and activists pompously moralizing, again and again, about parents grieving the deaths of their children, about communities in mourning, about the gory details of the violence that was committed. No one denies that the deaths of innocent people are tragic. What we deny is that punishing innocent people is an acceptable response. It simply does not follow from the fact that a bad thing happened to someone, that innocent people ought to be punished. And this is true no matter how bad the thing is. No amount of dramatic storytelling, graphic detail, or pompous moralizing will cause this to follow. No amount of grief, no amount of rage, no amount of self-righteousness gives someone the right to punish innocent people.

I am an autistic person who loves statues and history, who believes in individual rights, and who is just trying to get through each day the best that I can. I am angry, and I am exhausted. I am tired of public officials, celebrities, and people on the internet falling all over themselves to proclaim their solidarity with whatever group happens to be popular at the moment, while ignoring the feelings and needs of people like me. I am tired of having my fundamental rights taken away when I haven’t done anything wrong. I am tired of being stigmatized and shamed for actions that I had nothing to do with, solely because I happen to have the same skin color as the perpetrator. I am tired of being attacked and insulted for having the audacity to believe that rights should not be violated. I am tired of being punished by having my liberty restricted for actions that I did not do and situations that I did not create. 

Instead of focusing on punishing the actual shooters, far too many politicians and members of the media focus on punishing entire groups, whether that be white people, young men, gun owners, victims of bullying, pro-rights activists, or legislators who opt to respect rights instead of violating them. I am tired of the sneering faces, filled with self-righteous intolerance, condemning and blaming me for another person’s actions. I am tired of the scorn, vitriol, and insults being heaped relentlessly upon me – and upon all people who believe in individual liberty – as if I am the mass murderer. I am tired of being called immoral, when failing to distinguish between murderers and innocent people is the epitome of moral bankruptcy. 

I haven’t survived a mass shooting, or lost a family member or friend to one, but I am a person, and my well-being matters also. I have experienced, and continue to experience, unbearable loss, anguish, and pain, yet society has not only neglected to punish everyone for what happened to me, it has neglected to punish even the perpetrators themselves. What makes these pompous and self-righteous people so superior to me that society has decided that when I am harmed, no one should be punished, but when they are harmed, everyone should be?

Headlines about people being killed in mass shootings understandably capture the public’s attention, and the photos and stories of the victims understandably tug on people’s heartstrings. As the faces of shooting victims are splashed across newspaper front pages and the TV news, and their family members tearfully and angrily testify before Congress, it seems sacrilegious to argue against the idea that such tragedies should be prevented by any possible means. However, attempts to prevent tragedies at the expense of individual rights must be opposed, because freedom is crucial to having a life that is worth living. The gradual chipping away of liberty – whether by mandating medical procedures, banning the ingestion of substances, or imposing hurdles to gun ownership – is not as dramatic as a mass shooting. But it is just as destructive, if not more so. Of course, these victims didn’t deserve to die. But neither do I deserve to have my life destroyed by being robbed, one by one, of the things that make it worth living. The face below is not the face of a shooting victim. It is not the face of someone who has been harmed by gun violence. It is the face of someone who has been harmed, and will continue to be harmed, by authoritarian policies that attempt to prevent crimes by punishing those who do not commit them.

This, as you may have guessed, is my face. If you support gun control, you support harming me. Just as mass shootings end innocent lives, immoral laws destroy innocent lives, one violation of individual liberty at a time, by making them no longer worth living.

That is not as attention-grabbing as children being shot to death. But it is equally important.

It is wrong for mass shooters to punish innocent people. And it is equally wrong for the government to do the same in response.

bookmark_borderIdentity, representation, and fairness

“They’re just statues.”

“They’re not alive.”

“How can you get so upset about an inanimate object?”

More times than I can count, I have been asked these questions. 

To me, statues are a matter of identity. I love Christopher Columbus, and I love the generals who fought for the Confederacy. But even more importantly, I see these people as myself. When I see a statue of Columbus or someone from the Confederacy, I feel that the statue essentially is me. Not literally, of course, but symbolically and spiritually. When I see such a statue, it makes me feel represented. It makes me feel included. It makes me feel that people like me are welcome and accepted in our society.

That is why it has been so incredibly hurtful, traumatizing, and devastating to see Columbus statues and Confederate statues being violently destroyed across the country and world. The symbols of my inclusion and acceptance in society have been hacked to pieces with sledgehammers, smashed on the ground, beheaded, thrown into harbors, set on fire, and had nooses tightened around their necks. How do you think that would make someone feel?

Additionally, how do you think it would feel to see the people who are supposed to be in charge in our society – mayors, governors, senators, congresspeople, the president – react not with unequivocal condemnation but with ambivalence? How do you think it would feel to read statement after statement saying something like, “destroying property isn’t the best way to make one’s point, but the protesters’ feelings are completely understandable”?

And how do you think it makes me feel to read about analogous situations involving other cultures’ statues and monuments – the vandalism of a George Floyd sculpture in New York City, for example – and to see politicians react with exactly the harsh condemnation that they withheld when it was my statues being destroyed?

In short, it makes me feel persecuted. If there were just one or two isolated acts of vandalism targeting people like me, that would be sickening and infuriating, but tolerable. But when these acts are a consistent pattern, happening again and again all over the country and in other countries as well, the pain becomes so horrible that life is no longer worth living. These actions are just as hurtful as if these violent attacks were done to me. And our government, whose job it is to protect people’s rights and to ensure that justice is done, did nothing. In many cases, governments actually took actions that benefitted, rewarded, and/or publicly honored the perpetrators. Companies, sports teams, organizations, almost without exception did nothing. Or, worse, they chose to publicly express support not for the people who have been hurt, but for the movement that committed the hurtful actions. 

The question that occupies my mind every second of every minute of every hour of every day is this: How can I continue to exist in a world where all of the institutions that make up our society hate people like me? How can I live a happy life in a society that consistently, pervasively, and repeatedly sends the message that people like me are not welcome here?

I have been going to a therapist to try and figure out the answers to these questions. My therapist once explained to me that every person has the right to hold whatever ideas they wish in their internal world, but problems arise when people try to impose their ideas on the external world. In other words, I can enjoy my historical figures, and even consider them my friends, in my internal world, regardless of what happens to their likenesses in the external world. It is understandably upsetting, she told me, to see the statues destroyed, but it’s not the case that my rights were violated, because I don’t have a right, per se, to see the historical figures from my internal world reflected in the external one. 

I have spent a lot of time thinking about this and have come to the conclusion that if there were no statues and monuments at all, no holidays honoring individuals or groups, and no places named after historical figures, then I would agree with what my therapist said. But the problem is that there are statues, holidays, and place names for some historical figures and not others. Some people get to see their internal world reflected in the external world, while I do not. This disparate treatment is unfair and unjust. Therefore, I do believe that my rights have been violated. 

I will soon be getting a statue of Stonewall Jackson to put up outside my house. My therapist thinks this is a good idea, because although the statue will technically be part of the external world, he will be located on my own property, and therefore will enable me to honor a person that I love and identify with, without the dangers inherent in having a statue on public land.

Don’t get me wrong – I am very happy and excited to get my Stonewall statue. But the thing is, I shouldn’t have to. 

I shouldn’t have to pay $3,000 to erect a small statue that actually represents me, while other people get to have large statues, located on public land and paid for with government funds, of the people that they identify with. Those who identify with Abraham Lincoln, or George Washington, or Paul Revere, or Martin Luther King, Jr. do not have to pay to erect their own personal statues. While other groups get to have their internal world reflected in the external one through public art, the art that represents my identity is banished from public spaces and relegated to my own backyard. I think it is awesome that organizations such as Monuments Across Dixie and campaigns such as Lee Rides Again are raising money to build statues on privately-owned land. But when you think about it, they should not have to do this. People like me deserve to be publicly acknowledged as welcome and accepted members of society just as much as anyone else does.

In conclusion, while there is certainly something to be said for focusing on one’s internal world, I’m not sure that this is sufficient in cases where one is not merely failing to get one’s way, but actually being discriminated against and treated unjustly. Giving up on the real world, and withdrawing into the imaginary one, reflects a disturbingly bleak view of the world and its future. Unfortunately, this might be my only option given that the real world has decided to persecute and discriminate against people like me. 

One final note: You might ask why I identify so strongly with Columbus and Confederate people. Why are statues of these particular people necessary for me to feel represented and included? I am a woman, so many people might think I should feel represented by the Boston Women’s Memorial, featuring statues of various women from history. I am on the autism spectrum, so many people might think it would make me feel included when Autism Acceptance Month is celebrated every April. Many people also make the argument that Columbus Day and Columbus statues are unnecessary because there are numerous historical figures other than Christopher Columbus whom Italian Americans could choose to represent us. But although I find the Women’s Memorial beautiful and creative, I appreciate that there is a month honoring autistic people, and I wouldn’t mind the addition of more Italian American statues, none of these things move me emotionally. None of them resonate with me. None of them make me feel represented or included. I feel a spiritual and emotional connection with Columbus and with people from the Confederacy. Perhaps this is because they are considered rebels and underdogs; perhaps it is because they were quirky and different; perhaps it is because they are misunderstood and looked down upon. Just as people cannot be expected to provide a logical justification for being straight, or gay, or bisexual, my identity cannot be reduced to arguments or reasoning. The bottom line is that each individual person has the right to decide what types of statues, monuments, and holidays represent them. No one has the right to impose their ideas of representation on anyone else.

bookmark_borderWhat I would have written if I had thought quickly enough…

“Imagine being proud of this shit,” someone wrote.

“Imagine thinking that being a daughter of the Confederacy is a good thing,” wrote another person.

Well, I am proud of it, and I will not apologize for being so.

I do think it is a good thing, and I will not apologize for thinking so.

I have just as much of a right to be proud of the things that I identify with, as you have to be proud of the things that you identify with.

Imagine going out of your way to leave a nasty comment on someone’s social media page, just because they are different from you. Imagine going out of your way to insult and ridicule someone, particularly someone who is already being insulted, ridiculed, and attacked, just because they identify with something that is different from what you identify with. 

That is what is truly difficult to imagine.

bookmark_borderBigot of the day: “Anti-Free Stater”

A little while ago, I came across this disgusting and reprehensible tweet:

The Free State Project is a movement that encourages people to move to New Hampshire to form a community based on respect for individual rights and liberty. The Free State Project is a good thing, because individual rights and liberty are good. 

Criticizing the Free State Project would be bad and wrong in itself. Yet this person (and I use that term loosely) not only chose to dedicate his entire Twitter account to opposing the Free State movement, but also chose to insult this movement in cruel and profane terms and to wish death upon its members because they hold different political beliefs than he does. For obvious reasons, this is unacceptable and horrifying.

Additionally, it makes no sense that this person criticizes the Free State Project for being reactionary. According to Dictionary.com, “reactionary” means “of, pertaining to, marked by, or favoring reaction, especially extreme conservatism or rightism in politics; opposing political or social change.” To be reactionary is a neutral, not negative, attribute. There is nothing about liberalism that makes it superior to conservatism, there is nothing about leftism that makes it superior to rightism, and there is nothing about supporting political or social change that makes this superior to opposing political or social change (change is inherently neither positive nor negative; whether it is good or bad depends on what is being changed and how).

What makes even less sense is this person’s claim that “libertarianism is a Trojan horse for fascism.” Libertarianism is a political ideology that favors individual rights and liberty, while fascism is a political ideology that favors the maximum amount of state control. These two political ideologies are polar opposites, so it is ludicrous to claim that one could be a Trojan horse for the other.

Furthermore, by claiming that “every non-troglodyte hates you,” this person is calling every person who does not hate the Free State Project a troglodyte. This is both false and highly insulting.

Finally, this person calls members of the Free State movement “trashy rich people,” which is highly insulting, and writes that members of the movement “come here to defund the public sector,” as if that is somehow inherently a bad thing, which it is not.

In conclusion, the fact that someone would choose to write a post such as this is appalling. Words and attitudes like these are unacceptable and must be condemned at every opportunity.

bookmark_borderMaking one’s own decisions is a right, not a burden

I recently read a New York Times article about the fact that “the onus has fallen on individual Americans to decide how much risk they and their neighbors face from the coronavirus — and what, if anything, to do about it.”

In my opinion, this is exactly the way it should be, and exactly the way it should have been all along, from the beginning of the pandemic.

The author of the article, Benjamin Mueller, characterizes calculating one’s covid risk as “a fraught exercise.” He writes that “many scientists said they also worried about this latest phase of the pandemic heaping too much of the burden on individuals to make choices about keeping themselves and others safe.”

“All of the layered protections we’ve been talking about for the entire pandemic, each of those is being stripped away,” public health professor Marney White says in the article. “It’s impossible to calculate risk in these situations.”

I completely disagree with the implication that being responsible for making one’s own covid-related choices is a bad thing. The onus should fall on individuals to make decisions about their own health and safety, because making one’s own decisions is a fundamental right. It is liberating, not burdensome, to have one’s freedom of choice respected. It is very much a good thing that people are no longer being forced to take safety measures that may not make sense to them given their wishes, needs, and preferences.

Quite frankly, for many of the “layered protections” that White mentions, it is a good thing that they are being taken away. Measures such as stay at home orders, vaccine mandates, and required testing violate people’s rights and therefore should never have been instituted in the first place. Being able to live without one’s fundamental rights being violated is an essential part of a life worth living. This is the opposite of a burden.

It may very well be true that it is impossible to calculate risk with a high degree of certainty. But freedom of choice is a fundamental right, no matter how much or how little information about risk is available. I disagree with the implication that it is somehow preferable to have one’s freedom of choice taken away than to make choices in a situation with incomplete information. 

It is up to each individual person to make choices according to his or her own preferences, values, and risk tolerance. It is up to each individual person to decide how much or how little research to do, and how much or how little information to obtain during the decision-making process. Sometimes very clear and precise information is available, and sometimes it is not. Regardless, making choices for oneself is a fundamental right that everyone needs and deserves.

A couple of other notes:

The article states that two thirds of people “have not received the critical security of a booster shot.” But the security provided by a booster shot is not critical, as people have a fundamental right to make their own decision about whether or not to get a booster shot (or an initial vaccine, for that matter).

Also, one mathematics professor who is quoted in the article makes a very wrong comparison. The professor, Cameron Byerley, explains that she told her mother-in-law that having a 10% risk of dying from a covid infection (as was the case early in the pandemic) is the same as being told you are going to die one out of every 10 times you use the bathroom. But this is a faulty comparison. Every person goes to the bathroom at least once per day (a conservative estimate). If you are told that you will die one out of every 10 times you use the bathroom, that means that death from going to the bathroom is inevitable. Most people, in fact, will die within a week. Getting covid, on the other hand, happens much less frequently than going to the bathroom! Unlike with going to the bathroom, it is unusual for someone to get covid more than once within a year. So no, dying one out of every 10 times you use the bathroom is not like dying one out of every 10 times you get covid. A 10% chance of dying for something that you do every day is very different from a 10% chance of dying for something that happens at most a handful of times in a lifetime. 

bookmark_borderAre conservatives punishing companies for “speaking” on social issues?

I recently saw a newspaper headline about the decision by the state of Florida to revoke Disney’s special tax status. The headline made reference to conservatives’ practice of “punishing companies for speaking on social issues.”

I take issue with this word choice. I am a conservative who disagrees with Disney’s decision to publicly take a stand against the Florida law banning explicit sex education for children under fourth grade. Similarly, I found it morally wrong that so many companies issued statements publicly praising the George Floyd protests when they broke out two years ago.

Of course, I cannot speak for all conservatives, but speaking for myself, the reason these actions were upsetting is not because companies were “speaking on social issues.” It is because companies were taking a position on something that they should not be taking a position on. It is because instead of being neutral, companies chose to be biased. It is because instead of treating everyone equally, companies chose to discriminate.

By choosing to criticize the Florida law, Disney has decided that the (supposed) right of gay people to discuss their sexuality while at work is worthy of defending. By choosing to praise the BLM movement, companies have decided that (supposed) systemic racism against black people is a serious enough problem to speak out against. “Why would someone be upset by this?” you might be wondering. There is nothing wrong with supporting LGBTQ rights or anti-racism, after all. But the problem is that LGBTQ people and people of color are not the only people who have been wronged, harmed, or treated unjustly.

How about, to give just one example, people such as myself, whose hearts have been shattered and lives ruined by the destruction of the historical statues that make our lives worth living? How about Americans of Italian descent, or Americans of Confederate ancestry, whose heritage has been almost entirely obliterated from the national consciousness thanks to the BLM movement? 

By taking positions on issues of LGBTQ rights and black people’s rights, companies are saying that the rights of these groups matter, but not the rights of other groups and individuals. Companies are saying that the perspectives, experiences, and feelings of these groups matter, but not the perspectives, experiences, and feelings of others. Companies are saying that the struggles and problems faced by these groups are worthy of acknowledgement and empathy, but not the struggles and problems faced by others.

When I see a company expressing support for gay rights or for the BLM movement, while ignoring the pain inflicted by the destruction of historical figures, it hurts. It sends the message that my perspectives, my experiences, my feelings, and my pain do not matter. It sends the message that the company does not value me as a customer or as a human being.

So unless a company commits to expressing solidarity with every individual and every group that has gone through something difficult, the company should steer clear of expressing support for political causes. When a company expresses support for some causes but not others, that company is inherently expressing the belief that some causes matter while other causes do not. And that is discrimination, full stop.

Characterizing the conservative position as a desire to “punish companies for speaking on social issues” makes conservatives sound as if they are pro-censorship and anti-free-speech. It makes conservatives sound as if they want to silence those who disagree with them.

This is a deliberate mischaracterization of the conservative position, designed to make the conservative position appear illogical, hypocritical, and illegitimate.

I do not want companies to be silent rather than speaking out. I want companies to be neutral, rather than biased. I want companies to treat everyone equally, rather than demonstrating favoritism. I want companies to be inclusive, rather than discriminating against unpopular minorities who happen not to be politically favored. 

I do not believe that companies should be punished for “speaking on social issues.” I believe that companies should be punished for being biased and discriminatory.

bookmark_borderIntolerance is nothing to be proud of

Recently, I have been pondering the concept of intolerance. 

According to Dictionary.com, the word intolerant is defined as follows: “not tolerating or respecting beliefs, opinions, usages, manners, etc., different from one’s own, as in political or religious matters; bigoted.”

As this definition demonstrates, anyone in their right mind should consider intolerance to be a negative characteristic. And indeed, ever since I was in preschool, it has been a universally agreed-upon fact that being intolerant is a bad thing. It is treated as obvious and non-controversial that everyone should strive to be tolerant of others. 

However, in the past year, I have noticed a disturbing trend. It is becoming common for people to openly and shamelessly admit that they are intolerant. On several occasions, while arguing with various people on social media, I have pointed out that their views on vaccine mandates, statue destruction, or gun control are intolerant. Instead of denying that this is the case, they have responded by saying something to the effect of, “Yes, I am intolerant of you.”

As if being intolerant of someone different than you is perfectly fine. As if intolerance is a good thing. As if intolerance is something to be proud of. 

The tone of these individuals makes it clear that they are not acknowledging a flaw that they need to work on, but rather denying that being intolerant is even a flaw at all.

The past two years have been marked by the disturbing rise of an authoritarian and, yes, intolerant brand of progressive ideology. Proponents of this ideology have claimed to be inclusive and tolerant, while their words, actions, and policy positions demonstrate that they are in reality the exact opposite of this. But now, even more disturbingly, some proponents of this ideology have given up even the pretense of tolerance. 

Barring people from public life because they have declined a medical procedure. Smashing other cultures’ works of art to pieces with sledgehammers. Desecrating the graves of long-dead soldiers who were on the losing side of a war 150 years ago. Taunting and insulting supporters of a candidate who narrowly lost an election. Ridiculing those who disagree with you. Censoring dissenting views.

Actions like these epitomize intolerance, and this is why they are so morally repugnant.

At least some of the perpetrators of these actions now realize that they are behaving in an intolerant manner. But instead of changing their views, and/or trying to work on this character flaw, they deny that being intolerant is a bad thing at all. Proponents of authoritarian progressivism do not share even the most basic moral beliefs held by morally decent people. The decision to openly embrace intolerance demonstrates the complete and utter moral bankruptcy of this ideology.

bookmark_borderStatues are not needed to remember history… so what?

There are numerous bad arguments for taking down historical statues and monuments. One of the dumbest, in my opinion, is the argument that statues are not necessary to remember or learn about history.

Here is an example of this argument which I recently saw on Facebook:

Another time, I saw a satirical post about building a statue of the coronavirus (think the illustration of a red virus particle that is used on the news as a generic representation of the virus) so that future generations would remember the pandemic.

I have never argued that the reason why statues are needed is because people wouldn’t be able to remember things without them, and I don’t think anyone else has argued this either. Comments like the above are, therefore, an example of the straw man fallacy.

These arguments are frustrating, because yes, it is true that statues are not necessary for people to remember history. Books, informational websites, databases, and other forms of written documentation are all adequate for this purpose. But that doesn’t mean that statues are not necessary. The importance of statues extends far beyond the fact that they help people to learn about the past.

For me personally, I have an imaginary world in which historical figures are the characters, and I spend my time picturing their interactions and adventures. Statues are a way in which the people I love are able to exist in the physical world and be a concrete part of my life. To argue that statues are unnecessary as long as there are other ways of remembering stuff, completely denies and invalidates my perspective.

I understand that my perspective on historical figures is unusual, and few (if any) people in the world share it. But even if my perspective is incomprehensible to you, and you think that it counts for nothing, there remains the fact that statues, quite simply, are art. Statues are outdoor sculptures. And just like any form of art, statues are valuable for their own sake. Any person who does not see inherent value in art has no soul.

Would the person who made this idiotic Facebook comment advocate that the Mona Lisa be painted over so that the canvas could be re-used? After all, as long as it is written down somewhere that this particular Italian noblewoman existed, a painting is unnecessary, right? Would this person advocate that art museums be razed and the land put to more constructive uses, such as a data center, for example? After all, a database listing facts about the works of art would accomplish the same thing as looking at the works of art themselves, right?

Statues are important not merely because they are learning tools or reminders of the past, but because they are beautiful, because they are works of art, because they represent people whom I love, because they honor people and ideas that deserve to be honored, and because they enable historical figures to live on, to list just a few reasons. Arguing that statues aren’t needed because people can learn about history without them denies all of these things. Without statues, people might still remember the past, but the present world would be stripped of all beauty, joy, meaning, and purpose, and therefore would not be worth living in. I don’t know about you, but personally, I think that having a world worth living in is kind of important.

bookmark_borderYou don’t need to understand people’s decisions in order to respect them

One of the moral principles that I strongly believe in, and that I frequently write about on this blog, is the idea that people have the right to do anything they want, as long as it does not violate the rights of anyone else. (This idea is known as the non-aggression principle.)

Unfortunately, many people have the idea that unless they personally understand and agree with another person’s actions and decisions, those actions and decisions are not legitimate. I strongly disagree with this way of thinking. As long as someone’s actions are not directly harming you, they are not required to justify those actions to you, or to anyone else. People have a right to do whatever they believe is best for them. It doesn’t matter if their reasoning does not make sense to you, because their reasoning is none of your business.

Second Amendment rights provide a great example of this. More times than I can count, I have heard the claim, “No one needs an AR-15” (as well as an almost infinite number of variations of this claim with regard to different types of weapons, ammunition, etc.). People who make this claim are completely disregarding the non-aggression principle. One doesn’t need to prove a need for something in order to be allowed to have it. The only thing that matters is the fact that having an AR-15 does not, in itself, harm anyone. Therefore, people have the right to own and carry AR-15s for any reason, or for no reason at all. 

This meme from the National Association for Gun Rights sums it up perfectly:

Another decision that people are frequently expected to justify is the decision not to receive the Covid vaccine. Once I was arguing with someone on Twitter who claimed that if a person chooses not to follow the advice of public health experts, then of course it makes sense that the person would not be allowed to just wander around in public. This line of reasoning took my breath away, not just because of its blatant and unabashed authoritarianism, but more subtly because of its disturbing presumption that people are required to justify their medical decisions. This person seemed to be presuming that people are obligated to provide some sort of medical justification for disobeying the advice of medical experts, and if they fail to do so, then it is okay for them to be punished by having their freedoms taken away. In other words, it is one thing if someone has medical contraindications to getting the vaccine, but absent that, everyone should get the vaccine. Consistent with this way of thinking, the person then proceeded to interrogate me about what reasons a person could possibly have for declining the vaccine. But this way of thinking is wrong, and this line of questioning completely misses the point. Other people’s medical decisions, and the reasons for them, are none of his business and none of my business, either. The right to decline medical procedures is fundamental, and no one is required to provide medical justification, or any justification at all, for exercising it. “I don’t want to” is a perfectly good and complete reason for declining the vaccine.

Analogous situations frequently arise in everyday life as well. Society often expects people to provide a reason if they say no to an invitation, or leave a social event before it is over. These expectations are problematic for me, because I don’t particularly enjoy socializing, and I’m not able to tolerate it for as large amounts of time as most people are. Once when I told a friend that I was having a busy week and therefore wouldn’t be able to go to a particular event with her, she insisted that I explain exactly what I was doing and why that made it impossible for me to attend the event. I have been advised, when a social event is lasting longer than I want to stay, that I should make an excuse such as saying that I have a headache or have to get up early the next day. This has always seemed not quite right to me. Why should I have to make an excuse for staying for what I perceive to be a normal amount of time? My decision to leave a social event would be perfectly legitimate even if my only reason for doing so was preferring to play video games, sit on my couch, or watch paint dry. Just like with medical decisions or gun ownership decisions, people should not have to justify to others their decisions about how to spend their time and energy.

bookmark_borderElon Musk is why *not* to abolish billionaires

I recently came across this tweet, which represents one of the stupidest takes I’ve seen on Elon Musk’s potential bid to buy Twitter:

(via Turning Point USA)

This tweet exemplifies the warped way in which people on the left-hand side of the political spectrum view the world. 

For the past two years, the ideology that is often described as leftist, liberal, or progressive (but which is, in reality, brutal authoritarianism) has completely dominated all aspects of our society. People who dare express disagreement with any of this ideology’s tenets have been silenced, shunned, de-platformed, fired from their jobs, attacked, insulted, ridiculed, harassed, condemned, boycotted, or elsewise harshly punished, all for voicing dissenting views. Twitter is one of the most egregious examples of this trend, with supporters of authoritarian ideology free to spew their reprehensible bile without restraint, while those with the courage to fight back have had their tweets deleted and accounts suspended.

The prospect of Musk taking over Twitter brings with it the possibility of fairness and equal treatment, for a change. 

But, bizarrely, political commentator Anand Giridharadas sees the potential Musk takeover as an example of someone being “allowed” to acquire “concentrated influence.” He sees it as Musk “manspreading.” He sees it as Musk appropriating a disproportionate amount of power for himself. *

Nothing could be further from the truth. It is those who share Giridharadas’s ideology who have been allowed to acquire concentrated influence. It is they who have held nearly limitless power this entire time. 

Apparently, Giridharadas believes that he is entitled to a world in which the only people who are allowed to exist are those who think the way that he does. For now that there is a possibility of others actually being allowed to express their views, Giridharadas is aghast and indignant, acting as if he is somehow being disadvantaged and wronged. It is messed up and twisted that someone would imply that the possibility of fair and equal treatment for those with dissenting views somehow constitutes excessive power. It is reprehensible that someone would use words like “concentrated influence” and “manspreading” to characterize the possibility of others having the same freedoms that he does. Essentially, Giridharadas considers the solution to a wrong and unjust situation to be the problem, as opposed to the wrong and unjust situation itself.

In my opinion, Elon Musk demonstrates exactly why not to abolish billionaires. I am glad that Musk, a person who actually believes in freedom of speech and tolerance for diverse viewpoints, has enough money, power, and influence to make a positive difference in the world. I am glad that Elon Musk has the willingness and the ability to push back against bullies like Anand Giridharadas.  

* Not to mention the fact that characterizing high taxes for rich people as “asking them to chip in their fair share” presumes that that high taxes for rich people are fair, which is not necessarily true. As well as the fact that the term “manspreading” is blatantly sexist