Bil Browning

What does freedom mean to you?

Filed By Bil Browning | June 28, 2007 1:00 PM | comments

Filed in: Living
Tags: Bil Browning, Fourth of July, Independence Day, INTake magazine

Indianapolis weekly INTake magazine features myself and eleven others in their cover story: Free speech: Freedom's not just another word to 12 local residents. Other folks featured in the article include Marion County Prosecutor Carl Brizzi and talk show host and fellow blogger Abdul Hakim-Shabazz.

The mag asked me to answer the question "What does freedom mean to you?" for their Independence Day issue. I responded:

Freedom means not having to worry that I will be fired from my job or lose my housing because someone else is prejudiced. To me freedom means I cannot be denied the same public accommodations as everyone else.
It also means not having to worry that my child can be taken away from my care and I will be able to adopt if I'm a fit parent. It means that when someone commits an atrocity against a member of a minority group to intimidate others, the community labels it a hate crime and loudly condemns it. If I could serve my country honorably in the military, I would be able to protect freedom around the world. When I'm able to help fulfill my responsibilities as a citizen by giving blood to help my fellow Americans, I will truly be free.

But I don't have these freedoms . . . I'm a gay American.

In a moment of total vanity, I have to say that I absolutely hate the picture they ran with it. Worst. Picture. Ever.


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"Freedom means not having to worry that I will be fired from my job or lose my housing because someone else is prejudiced."

Shouldn't freedom also mean that you have a job and access to housing in the first place? A lot of people (queer and otherwise) don't even have that...

Hey Bil.
I just wanted to tell you that I completely DISAGREE with the "Worst. Picture. Ever." label!

More importantly, I wanted to tell you that your contribution was wondeful. Powerful, and moving. Thank you for sharing your viewpoint.

Much Love,
Tish Lyndsey

p.s. For what it's worth, I wasn't completely thrilled with my big red smile that accompanied
the artice. ;-)

What's with bloggers getting photographed with bare feet? (See also: Perez Hilton)

Thanks Tish! I thought your photo was beautiful, actually. Mine makes me look like I'm missing teeth!

As for the barefoot thing, Rita, I'm usually barefoot when I'm at home - especially in the summer time. We just bought an old house and I spent all winter complaining that I had to wear slippers since it was so cold on the hardwood floors! *grins* I thought they'd just take a generic "you at the computer" shot with my desk - and who needs shoes for that? :)

And I understand your concerns, Jeff, but there's one simple difference. We can pass laws to ensure that everyone has an equal shot at employment and housing, but mandating that everyone will have a job and a house is an awful lot like communism...

Bil,

We ALREADY have government programs that provide low-income housing, homeless shelters, etc. Unfortunately these services are rapidly disappearing -- in many cities low-income housing is being replaced by high rent condos when white developers get in bed with local politicians. Or homeless shelters and community centers are closed to make way for the newest baseball stadium, etc.

How can freedom include a political environment where you have the right to keep your housing, but not an economic/social system where you have the ability to secure housing in the first place?

Bil Said :
"Freedom means not having to worry that I will be fired from my job or lose my housing because someone else is prejudiced. To me freedom means I cannot be denied the same public accommodations as everyone else."

It would appear to me that you have your definitions of Rights and Privileges seriously misaligned.

A Right is something that is inherent, that you are born with, and can neither be granted nor usurped by government.

A Privilege on the other hand is bestowed upon collectives by the government and is therefore prescribed by law.

Since the INtake article was written as a precursor to America celebrating her 231st birthday, it seems rather apropos to examine the "Bill of Rights"

This document was not an outline specifying Privileges not to be tampered with by government. No this was, and barely still is, a document which enshrines the Rights our government is not to try and legislate, as they are inherent to us simply by being human beings, and are therefore out of the jurisdictional realm of government.

More directly to the point, further examination of the specific Amendments yields that as individuals we have the Right to peaceably assemble, i.e the Right to free association.

What you falsely assert is that you somehow should have the Coercive Privilege to violate a private sector employers Right to free association by mandating that he or she not be able to terminate your employment with the business based solely upon their possible negative opinion of gays. (Guess what - even once coercive legislative protection is granted to a collective, employers still find ways to fire you regardless, they just state and alternative reason in your file. Can anyone say "parrot victory"?)

(note: government bureaucracies and employers who receive revenue from government contracts acquiesce this right to free association)

Moreover, I personally enjoy my Right to hold my own personal bigotries. Should government interfere with our company's right not to hire pedophiles or openly bigoted individuals?

Additionally, I as an individual have the Right to type this response to "bilerico.com", but I do not have the Coercive Privilege to force you into posting my reply. As Bilerico is your venture, paid for with capital by you and whom ever else is a partner in Bilerico. As such, you have final editorial control as it relates to content.

I mean ask yourself this question, should government come to you and say, "Bil you will let Mr. Eric Miller blog on bilerico.com or we will file an EEOC violation against you."?

Of course not Bil, because you as individual inherently have the Right to freely associate with other like minded LGBT bloggers and government cannot and should not coerce you into posting blogs from those opposed to the LGBT community. (also known as the "Fairness Doctrine")

For some other things, people have misconstrued as rights, but are clearly not:

http://tinyurl.com/k286

Or read the written works of John Locke, Thomas Paine, Thomas Jefferson, Adam Smith, and Deirdre McCloskey.

"My rights end where your nose begins." - Thomas Paine

Allison, I'm generally amazed that certain people make up concepts like "rights" and "privileges" and then make up lists of what falls into those categories based on absolutely nothing, and then are shocked when others don't prescribe to them. Just because someone said something over 200 year ago doesn't mean that it has to become a strait jacket for our lives now.

(And people going back to the "Founding Fathers" to prove a point, as if those people can read the minds of others who have been dead for 200 years, always reminds me of Noam Chomsky's statement that if you just read them with an open mind nowadays they sound like a bunch of hippy radical activists, much like Jesus.)

But I suppose I can make up righs and categories and privileges too, and I'm going to say that having the ability to do a job and not be judged on anything besides your efficacy at that job is a right. It extends from the right to eat, which if you can't get a job because of your sexuality or gender identity, is severely curtailed.

Ah, making up rights always makes me feel better and keeps me from having to justify my positions. I suppose that's why people do that all that time.