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Just Sayin': How we define freedom

Protesters set an American flag on fire near

Protesters set an American flag on fire near the Hollywood Walk of Fame star of former President Donald Trump during a July 4, 2020, demonstration by the Revolution Club in Los Angeles. Credit: Los Angeles Times via Getty Imag/Kent Nishimura

A reader appears entirely confused about freedom ["Freedoms are at risk when not exercised," Just Sayin’, July 17]. It seems that he believes that anyone who criticizes a protester is wrong. But that is the entire foundation to the concept of freedom, contrary to his narrower definition, in which only the protesters hold the high ground. That is an emotional argument.

No, freedom is not "tough and often painful." Being denied freedom is tough and painful as millions of immigrants will attest to.

No, taking a knee at a game is not a right because your personal protest, in front of a captive audience, does not trump the employer’s right to expect you to behave appropriately on his dime. Imagine holding a protest during work. Do you think your employer would approve, or that any court would uphold this as a "freedom"?

Finally, regarding the reader’s excellent suggestion to read our Constitution and the Bill of Rights, understand that these do not enumerate our freedoms. No, our freedom is granted as an inalienable right when we become citizens. Most of these honorable documents were written with a goal to constrain the government that the Founding Fathers recognized has a natural tendency to restrict our freedom.

— Ted Sarian, Flanders

A reader expressed well the difference between an emotional response to an act and recognizing the importance of having the freedom to express these opinions. Freedom of speech affords everyone in this country the right to express one’s feelings, to peacefully demonstrate for change, to practice one’s religion or have no religion at all.

This is what sets us apart from much of the rest of the world. It is part of what makes this country great.

I recently lost a relationship with a lifelong friend who did not understand the difference between upholding a person’s right to express   freedom of speech and one’s own feelings about what that person says or does.

I will never burn the American flag or be a white supremacist or participate in related events, but an American’s right to freely express one’s views is a right under the First Amendment of the Constitution.

My friend said I do not understand because I never had a child in the military. I say she does not understand that her military children swore an oath to uphold these very rights.

Thanks to the reader for helping to make my argument.

— Roseann Forziano, Calverton

Are we free to yell "Fire!" in a movie theater, or "Bomb!" in a crowded airplane? What would happen if I walked up to the reader and called his mom a word I can’t write here? Would he just accept it as me exercising my right to free speech? Or would he be offended and could I expect a repercussion? Are we all free to use racial epithets?

That is offensive, but you can burn our American flag or disrespect our country at international events, and patriotic Americans should not feel offended. Really?

How many celebrities, government officials and sports figures have apologized for what they said? They had the right to say what they wanted — why did they apologize? They exercised their rights as granted by the Constitution and, in particular, the Bill of Rights. Maybe they felt what they said was wrong.

Yes, we have the right to say what we want, but I would consider that we also have an obligation to use those words appropriately and to respect the symbols of the nation that granted those rights as well as those who died preserving them.

— Lou Puglia, Massapequa

Kudos to the reader who cautions that "freedom is tough, and often painful and . . . cannot be taken for granted."

"Escape From Freedom," by Erich Fromm, should be required reading for all patriotic Americans dedicated to preserving our democracy. It was originally published in 1941, yet it is extremely applicable today.

It discusses dangers and responsibilities inherent in freedom, including a most probing analysis of why civilizations throughout history have almost always submitted to totalitarian rule over democracy.

— Fred Barnett, Lake Grove

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