The Freedom to Choose

As is often said, “elections have consequences”. Never have the American people been presented with a more astute and visible reminder of just that fact than the past 3 ½ years of iron-fisted Democrat rule. Liberals may find that description rather uncomfortable, because after all, they’re the “nice” people. I dare them, however, to describe this administration as effectively in some other fashion.

Well, the American people have one helluva choice to make in November. Are you for freedom – or are you for being controlled by the state?  As I often tell the young men in my charge, life’s about choices. Choices have consequences, either good – or, as in the case of real life – sometimes bad.  

Just don’t tell that to Liberals. They will most decidedly disagree. From their way of thinking, there should never be a hard choice to be made in one’s life, and if for some strange reason there is one, a person should never feel as though there’s any degree of real risk involved and should always feel “safe”, one way or another.

For example, of all the issues that are discussed ad-nauseum during a typical election season, one is always abortion. As a conservative who values the natural right of any human being to, above all else, life itself – as well as the natural rights and freedoms that come with one’s very existence, I am quite obviously pro-life. A Liberal, on the other hand, ostensibly believes that people should feel free to engage in whatever type of sexual behavior that makes them happy, without the burdensome worry of an unplanned pregnancy. Rather than concerning themselves with the more substantive choice – restraining oneself from the activity to begin with – Liberals simply opt for the easier, safer, more disposable choice. End the life of the infant. No real-life consequences. One of the all-too-common liberal retorts to this is, however, that abortion is more about “women’s health” and “protecting life.”

I’ve never been quite sure how to respond to that.

The more that I’ve come to dwell upon the term “pro-choice”, though, I can’t help but come to the conclusion that that describes me as well.

How can that possibly be, a reasonably-astute and civic-minded individual might ask?

Simple: I’m all for everyone having the right to freely make one’s own choices in life, be it choosing to consume a light, protein-based lunch during the day or two packages of Ring-Dings and a Big Gulp soda from 7-11 for breakfast. What a person does with his own time and resources is his own business, not mine. There are, however, consequences to those choices. For any Liberals who might stumble upon this article, please spare me the argument that people who cannot control their own passions and consumptions are both our responsibility to guide and a drain on the medical resources of the nation. If such people were to take some responsibility, control themselves, and pay for their own health care (if, in fact, they’re without), just watch how quickly many of them would become more responsible with their health choices if their premiums went up, based on the risk that insurers would take on an individual who paid little regard to his own well-being. After all, don’t auto insurers charge higher premiums for people with risky driving records? In fact, we’re even allowed to buy auto insurance across state lines. What a novel concept – competition that helps to drive down costs. I wish I’d thought of that.

Health care is not, however, the basis of my arguments here. It is only an example of a much, much, larger issue, the issue that is, ultimately, what this election and the life model of the American people for the foreseeable future is all about: the right to freely make one’s own choices, govern one’s own passions, and to discipline oneself – something that Liberals seem to believe that the general populace simply cannot do on their own – or the government stepping in to provide the life discipline for us. This is arguably what being a “Progressive” is all about: protecting humanity from itself, a mindset that I personally believe was a bill of goods sold to self-perceived “intellectuals” by the real elites about a century ago in an effort to consolidate their own wealth and power. That is, however, the material for another piece.

I began dwelling on this concept as a result of some more recent occurrences in my own writing and thinking: Jeff’s suggestion that I put together some work on school choice, Mayor Bloomberg’s decision to crack down on the evil soda people (and now the evil popcorn people), and, believe it or not, my having had the chance to go back and watch the film Quiz Show, a 1994 movie that lays bare the dark side of the advent of the television industry.

Obviously, merely mentioning Glenn Beck’s name in a political discussion evokes a lot of strong emotions, both good and bad. Allow me to say this about the man: I totally get what he’s doing. I may not always completely agree with it, but I get it. In the context of presenting both the actual history of our country and legitimate issues that need to be exposed and discussed, he is, as the expression goes, “shooting well beyond the goalpost”. In other words, he does, in many cases, present the most extended possible ramifications of the proverbial slippery slope with regard to the decisions and policies coming out of Washington today. While this clearly has had the effect of jolting people awake, there are times when, I think, he does go a bit too far. Of course, that doesn’t mean that he should be disregarded out-of-hand; he has done far more good for America than otherwise. We don’t want to throw the baby out with the bathwater, after all.

Well….maybe Liberals do.

In any event, back when his political meteor was initially streaking across the sky, one of the ideas that he espoused – an idea that certainly piqued my interest – was the concept of “self-governance” that the founders actually intended. We can debate the intentions of the founders all day and agree and disagree about specific things, and I’m even willing to consider that Beck’s interpretation may not even have been entirely accurate; however, the idea itself is interesting and, from where I stand anyway, quite applicable to the notion of being “pro-choice”, so to speak.

When the founders declared political independence from England in 1776 and embarked on the social experiment of “self-governance”, not only were they laying the foundation for a country in which the people themselves would be the principle governing body, but they were also throwing open the doors on the notion that each individual person didn’t need an all-powerful monarch or government either dictating or limiting their choices in life. They felt – rightly so – that any mature, responsible adult should be able to instinctively know and understand when their own personal needs and desires would become detrimental to others and, in effect, impede on the freedom and rights of others.

For example – should marijuana be legalized? Should we all be able to freely toke up whenever and wherever we feel like it? While Liberals and Libertarians would most likely respond in the affirmative, I’m not entirely sure that they’re considering the possible ramifications of such a decision. Since Progressives seem to believe that the “common lot” in humanity is incapable of making its own decisions, what makes them think that we’re not going to have legions of people behind the wheel of a car, on an interstate, and in an altered state of mind? The idea in and of itself is completely self-contradictory. Once we have an escalation in the number of automobile fatalities as a direct result of such legislation – and we will – who will be at fault then? The dead people? Haven’t they had their life, liberty, and pursuit of happiness taken from them, all so that a bunch of selfishly-misguided people couldn’t find the strength to restrain their personal need to inhale?

Ultimately, it all comes down to this: if people want to be “pro-choice”, as it were, then they’re going to have to find it within themselves to be able to recognize when their own wants impede on the rights of others.

Other than abject contrarians who merely want to shock people, are there really a whole lot of people who think the parades of naked cyclists we’ve seen over the course of the past 20 years are really a good idea?

In my position as the primary disciplinarian in an all-boys’, Catholic college-preparatory high school, I’ve been dealing with this phenomenon more and more during roughly the past decade. While there are always going to be timeless, innate characteristics of American teenagers everywhere, this generation of young people strikes me as slightly more peculiar. Much of their poor decision-making comes when they find themselves solidly entrenched in the protection of the “pack” (which I always tell them is the province of the coward), and it is precisely then that, for some odd reason, that they feel that they have to – as I also point out to them – “impress their friends”. They simply cannot control themselves, it seems, something that I’ll never believe.

Sounds like a dead-on description of Occupy Wall Street, if you ask me.

It is during these instructional moments that I point out to some of these boys that once they’ve placed themselves in a potentially precarious, discipline-type situation, they then have a choice: they can do the right thing (what their conscious mind is no doubt telling them to do), or they can succumb to the need to do what they think their friends want them to do. From that point, their life evolves.

Just like political views.   Life’s funny that way, I guess.

Most people would call this basic judgment or common sense, but of course, both of these qualities are sorely lacking in today’s America, if they haven’t already disappeared entirely.

As I pointed out earlier, many of these ideas began to form in my mind as I watched the 1994 movie Quiz Show. I’ve no doubt that many, many people will point out that the film is an indictment of the big corporations, the media, and the government, all of which work hand-in-hand in many cases. Such an interpretation would be a legitimate one, for sure. I think, however, that there’s another angle from which people should view this movie, and it speaks directly to a significant part of the core of the problems in today’s America.

America is ostensibly a “free” country. We all know that. As the past 4-6 years have clearly shown, though, it seems as if we have two groups of people who see the idea of “freedom” quite differently. The first group – the Liberals and, to a certain extent, the Libertarians – is made up of those who wish for “social freedom”, or what might be characterized as the desire to behave in whatever unfettered way that one wishes, social conventions and/or expectations be damned. The second group – mostly the mainstream Conservatives – is made up of those who want to build a life for themselves and their families through “economic” freedom, or the desire to have the chains of taxation lifted from their efforts so that they can make something of their own lives without interference from other people who claim “to know better”. Now, I ask you – did the founders of this nation rebel so that they could take ownership of their own economic future, or so that men could cross-dress in public, so as to make some kind of “statement”?

That said, let me just say this: while a I am an unabashed mainstream conservative, a man who would like nothing better than not to have to feel as though he’s responsible for the legions of bad, individual choices of millions of people nationwide, I’m also not going to stand in the way of the proverbial cross-dressing man. Knock yourself out. Just don’t bring it into my house. That really isn’t a lot to ask.

As all this applies to the movie in question, our society, and the nature of being “pro-choice”, my views and questions are very simple, straightforward ones. In fact, the views and questions of most conservatives are quite often very simple and straightforward.

In a “free” country, shouldn’t businesses – small, big, or corporate – have the right to freely advertise in any legal way that they desire? In the film in question, Big Pharma was investing a pretty penny in an effort to advertise and sell their product, and with the show being orchestrated in the manner in which it was, their sales skyrocketed. Was it ethical? Certainly not; it was fraudulent. Was it illegal? Not by any measure that I can see. The American people had the freedom to choose whether they watched or not. No one forced them. In principle, it was no different from the “professional wrestling” scandal of some 25-odd years ago. People were seemingly outraged when presented with the possibility that the Hulk Hogans of the world were – gasp – acting.

Of course, the clear counter to this point is that the executives in Big Pharma and NBC should have known better; as I stated earlier in this piece, they should have known enough that at a certain point, their needs and desires needed to be and should have been checked at the door. Big Pharma, NBC, politicians, and even lawyers took advantage of the fact that people are suckers and ridiculously gullible. What this movie actually shows to us, therefore, is that it is the viewers – the people – who are just as much to blame. People want excitement; people want something that rivets their attention. The officials at NBC and those in Big Pharma knew, and undoubtedly still know today, that if it’s edgy, shocking, fun, or exciting, the people will watch.

Sounds like the 2008 presidential election. Was anyone outraged by the fraud in that edition of American Idol?

Now, if quite a few people questioned the integrity of what it was they were watching, and enough of them didn’t tune in, then pharma and NBC would have moved on to something else. It’s called the free market of the economy, ideas, and the freedom to choose.

Somehow, someway, however, the audience – the American people – was portrayed as the abstract victim. The ultimate message in this is that people should not be held responsible to use their heads and apply some discretion. People, apparently, cannot control themselves and are incapable of applying a degree of sound judgment. Believe it or not, this back-asswards outlook is no different – absolutely no different – from the reason that women in the Middle East are required to wear Burqas. The “manly” men in that volatile region of the world are not expected to be able to control their sexual impulses. Any woman in the Middle East who might dress in a way that we here in America would deem “everyday” and/or “normal” are considerd fair game to be raped. The Burqa protects those poor, victimized men. It must be awful for them.

Please…someone explain the conceptual difference there.

Remember, I’m admitting that the fraudulent business practice was unethical, but the American people freely chose to watch the product that they provided. As the vigilante “V” said in his famous speech, “If you want to know who’s truly to blame, all you have to do is look in a mirror.”

It’s easy to understand, then, why the mainstream media will never openly advocate for conservative ideas, because to do so would be to invite ratings disaster. Corporations are only going to pony up the big advertising dollars for the mindless shows that deliver high Neilsens, and those are certainly not going to be shows espousing the values of being a decent person. These will be shows that advocate the “culture of me”, in which there are never to be any real boundaries placed upon the social desires of a person. In short, these will be shows that tell us that “It’s all good.”

When all of this comes out in the wash, we have a fascinating contradiction. We’re presented with a popular culture that vilifies conservatives who succeed on their own and play by the rules, have the internal strength to restrain themselves, and are people who are grateful for having the right to freely make their own way in the world. On the other hand, this same popular culture places on a pedestal those people who live according to their baser instincts, presenting them as people whose personal judgment we should admire and trust (after all, most of those people vote Democrat). Conversely, the progressive politicians whom they revere seem to have no qualms whatsoever for putting more and more roadblocks on the road to free choice, either directly or indirectly stating that no American is capable of making choices that will not bring harm upon themselves or the country.

Wait…isn’t that a form of consumption profiling? Gosh, I would think that all enlightened Liberals would be against any type of profiling.
How does a Liberal progressive reconcile that?
Although I do firmly believe that a Liberal would never partake of a Big Gulp.

Much of this goes all the way back to the administration of Teddy Roosevelt, the first of the “Progressives”, but a man who did maintain much of his Republican, rough-‘n-ready individualistic nature. While Teddy’s legacy in this regard will most likely always be his having established anti-trust laws and the break-up of monopolies, the concept of “protection” that is inherent in the Constitution and Teddy’s original vision has now been taken to its most absurd extremes. We’re now paralyzed by “protection.” It seems that no one is allowed to do anything.

Unless, of course, you choose to live a life of self-destructive hedonism. But wait…aren’t those the choices from which Mayor Bloomberg is so nobly trying to protect us?

Honestly, the mental gymnastics that are passed off as “intellect” by the Left are enough to make me choose to light myself on fire.

In short, the American people – who are, admittedly, shaking themselves awake in impressive fashion – need to return to the simple realization that they have the power to move forces larger than they can possibly imagine, all through their own individual free choice. They have a big choice to make in November. Those in power are quite aware of this and will do practically anything to prevent people from realizing that they don’t need all this sophisticated “protection”. It is the elitists in our government – both Democrats and Republicans – who are actually trying to protect themselves from us.

Sick of paying ridiculously high prices to attend a professional sporting event, for example? Stop going to the games. Stop the pay-per-view crap.   No one is forcing you to pay for these products.   Watch how fast prices would drop.

Know who really needs protection? The most defenseless amongst us, starting with innocent children in the womb – not the women who want to engage in wanton sexual intercourse with impunity. Seems that Liberals began eliminating the free choice of individuals when they took away the choice of infants to actually live.

But, of course, they’ll choose to protect the spotted and horned yellow Texas tadpole. I have one of those, by the way. It’s a helluva pet. Thank God it’s protected.

Allow me to close this piece by saying, once again, that I am both pro-life and pro-choice. To those Liberals who feel that they have sole domain over the term “pro-choice”, I’ll respond with two points: first, whenever anyone can show me that the DNA of a fetus is something other than human, then I’ll be the very first to agree that the life form in the womb is not a child; second, the “choice” about which you are so adamantly strident isn’t actually about terminating the life in the womb. Whether you want to hear it or not, it’s actually about governing your passions and restraining yourself. If you don’t want to risk a pregnancy, then don’t engage in random sexual intercourse.

Use common sense instead. That’s your choice.

Choose wisely in November.



  1. whats_up says:

    Mr Feeny you state this:

    “Simple: I’m all for everyone having the right to freely make one’s own choices in life, be it choosing to consume a light, protein-based lunch during the day or two packages of Ring-Dings and a Big Gulp soda from 7-11 for breakfast. What a person does with his own time and resources is his own business, not mine. There are, however, consequences to those choices”

    And then you spend nearly the rest of your article arguing against that very statement.

    You seem to be fine with control as long as you agree with it, otherwise not so much.

  2. John Feeny says:

    No, my friend…I argue that people need to use sound judgement and common sense. If one CHOOSES not to do so, fine; just be prepared to deal with the consequences. I’m not responsible for the poor choices that people such as yourself make, sometimes merely by opening their mouths.

  3. whats_up says:

    Mr. Feeny,

    As always stimulating to talk with you. I have seen what conservatives consider “sound judgement and common sense.” I have lived through the culture wars and the drug wars, if this is their common sense at work I want no part of it and would question those who continue to support those programs about their judgement or lack thereof.

  4. John Feeny says:

    Are you suggesting that people should not apply common sense? Or are you suggesting that the government become the ultimate arbiter of common sense?

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