(Yasmin Elqutami The Student Life)
For a while, I was trying to figure out what exactly is giving Americans the impression that wearing a mask should be a choice, that banning assault weapons would be an egregious violation of the Constitution and that the police are keeping us safe even when Black, Indigenous and other people of color are subject to unimaginable violence. I was struggling to understand what was driving our nation to have such horrendously privileged and harmful mindsets.
I recently listened to Know Your Rights by The Clash. The song begins, epically, This is a public service announcement, with guitar, know your rights, all three of them, mocking the yet-delivered life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness our government has claimed to pledge to us since 1776.
The first verse begins, You have the right not to be killed, murder is a crime, unless it was done by a policeman or an aristocrat. That checks out. The third right is my favorite: You have the right to free speech, as long as youre not dumb enough to actually try it. The song ominously ends with Get off the streets, run, get off the streets.
Its clear that Americas Achilles heel is our false notion of freedom. Composed by wealthy, white, cis men, freedom has never really existed in America. In fact, the freedom that wealthy, white, cis men have so graciously promised us has completely prevented our country from having true rights, equality and safety.
In the 244 years of our countrys existence, the notion of freedom has become more warped and toxic with each new year. There is a complex duality between rights and freedom in our country that has created an absolute mess of things.
Im going to try to put this as clearly as The Clash you do not have the right to infect other people with a deadly virus. In addition, you do not have the right to accuse the government of trying to control your body, with a mask, while actively trying to control womxns and trans bodies, or remaining complacent in racist systems.
Your freedom only exists until it gets in the way of someone elses freedom. If your freedom is limiting someone elses ability to pursue life, liberty and happiness, you are not exercising freedom, you are exercising supremacy.
Our country is bleeding and crying from every sector and it is because we have somehow managed to rob the majority of our citizens of their basic human rights, while also giving a handful of malicious citizens the impression they can do whatever they want, no matter the impact on others.
Long standing social inequities and systemic racism within our nations health care system have put minorities at a severely greater risk of contracting and dying from COVID-19. Black, Latinx and Native American communities across the U.S. are now suffering in-part because of white Americans racist, supremacist attitude towards wearing masks.
When there is a horribly painful and deadly virus sweeping the globe that disproportionately affects minorities, and you choose not to wear a mask because it feels like a violation of your freedom, your behaviors are racist.
If you dont wear a mask and thus infect others with COVID-19, their illness is a result of your moral failing. That is a direct violation of everyone elses life, liberty and happiness. Your sense of freedom has put on a hood and become supremacy.
If you dont want your body to be controlled, and yet insist that womxns and trans bodies be controlled, your freedom has put on a hood and become supremacy.
In direct contrast to this nightmarish, tarnished freedom being viciously upheld, none of the real rights we deserve as humans are being provided. This duality is what is making the U.S. an unbearable place to try to survive.
In the U.S. we have mostly negative rights. Negative rights do not require action by the government or private citizens to be upheld. We are supposedly allowed to say whatever we want, believe in whatever religion we want and organize when we want, without enlisting the work of others. The government is happy to champion negative rights because they dont cost that much.
Because negative rights require (in theory) less work and are (in theory) easier to maintain, they have become the backbone of our country. But what about positive rights?
Everyone supposedly has the right to a lawyer when they are arrested, and everyone should have food, shelter, security and health care provided to them based on their positive rights. But because positive rights demand more work, more empathy and support, theyve been completely abandoned.
Our country has weak, racist, homophobic and sexist social services. We have not found a way to defund the police because, for 244 years, we have focused solely on negative rights. If our nation demanded that positive rights be delivered upon as much as negative rights, defunding the police would have already happened. An emphasis on positive rights in our country, from the beginning, would have provided funding to social services and forced a proportionate distribution of funds between agencies like the police and mental health rehabilitation based on what the people of America need.
Lack of balance between positive and negative rights is a large contributor to the lack of equality in our country. The overwhelming presence of negative rights only help rich, white, cis men who rule the country. An increase in positive rights would help the people in our country being suppressed gain equality.
Emphasis on negative rights is a major reason why we are one of the only developed nations without a universal health care system. Without positive rights, it makes sense that police, the very people charged with protecting us, are killing Black people at up to six times the rate of white people.
There isnt equal representation in our voting process, and mass incarceration and the prison industrial complex have taken over the economy. Our education system has one of the lowest funding rates (6.2 percent), compared to overall GDP in the world.
The government is actively dismantling regulations that protect transgender people against health care discrimination, despite 44 percent of transgender people reporting that transgender-inclusive health care is their most significant need. We have the second highest CO2 emissions rate in the world. Clearly, in terms of basic human rights, which are frequently classified as positive rights, we are utterly failing.
We need to completely rethink freedom as a nation and how we can create a society where everyone can truly access life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. Freedom will never exist until everyone is assured basic human rights, both negative and positive. Until our country understands more elementary concepts such as empathy, compassion and generosity, there is no freedom.
Georgia Scott PZ 23 is from San Anselmo, California. Her sister Isabella Scott just got a piece of work selected to be shown in the Ogden Museum of Southern Art. Learn more through her Instagram @isabellasartofficial.
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- Freedom | Definition of Freedom at Dictionary.com - December 3rd, 2020
- Freedom - Wikipedia - December 3rd, 2020
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- PAUL TIYAMBE ZELEZA - Beyond Political Freedom to Inclusive Wealth Creation and Self-Reliance - The Elephant - September 18th, 2020
- Backyard pool will bring joy and freedom to Niagara Falls boy - StCatharinesStandard.ca - September 18th, 2020
- Parson James Talks New Single, Lockdown, and Artistic Freedom - vmagazine.com - September 18th, 2020
- Private Railways Will Have Freedom To Set Their Own Fares: Government - NDTV - September 18th, 2020
- McCarthy focused on election, not Freedom Caucus push to remove Pelosi - Roll Call - September 18th, 2020
- Julian Assange, and Press Freedom, on Trial in London - Democracy Now! - September 18th, 2020
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- COMMENTARY: Your freedom hinges on freedom of speech - The Cherokee One Feather - Cherokee One Feather - September 2nd, 2020
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- What was the Red Sox best trade-deadline acquisition? Freedom from luxury-tax penalties - The Boston Globe - September 2nd, 2020
- Fortify Your Home on the Cheap, Part 2 - America's 1st Freedom - September 2nd, 2020
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- President Armen Sarkissian: Artsakh Was the Spark Which Lit the Fire of Freedom - Armenian News by MassisPost - September 2nd, 2020
- One Database to Rule Them All: The Invisible Content Cartel that Undermines the Freedom of Expression Online - EFF - September 2nd, 2020
- Personal freedom is still limited in most of the Islamic world - The Economist - September 2nd, 2020
- 'Mental Freedom' part two - The River Reporter - September 2nd, 2020
- Tuesday Freedom Kicks: Gelmin Rivas to D.C. United, continued fallout at Real Salt Lake, and more - Black And Red United - September 2nd, 2020
- Freedom Means Something Different to Liberals and Conservatives. Heres How the Definition SplitAnd Why That Still Matters - TIME - August 31st, 2020
- Trademark Parody and Freedom of Speech in the U.S. - JD Supra - August 31st, 2020
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- Letter to the Editor: The real meaning of freedom - The Bakersfield Californian - August 31st, 2020
- Bass: Exercising freedom to be exposed to COVID-19 - Berkshire Eagle - August 31st, 2020
- Dean Cain: NYC becoming land of the flee as people leave in search of more freedom - Fox News - August 31st, 2020
- In Conversation: Georgia Anne Muldrow on Finding Freedom as Jyoti - FLOOD Magazine - August 31st, 2020
- Watershed moment for freedom of speech: Prashant Bhushan on SC verdict. Read full statement here - Hindustan Times - August 31st, 2020
- Trumps ban of TikTok and WeChat would reduce Americans freedom of speech and harm foreign investment in the U.S. - MarketWatch - August 31st, 2020
- Letter to the Editor: It's All About Freedom - Centralia Chronicle - August 31st, 2020
- CLARK B. HALL: Rare images record freedom in the making - starexponent.com - August 31st, 2020
- Tantrum Or Freedom Of Expression Over Face Masks? - wcrz.com - August 31st, 2020
- This is my freedom of speech - Newnan Times-Herald - August 31st, 2020
- There are limits to freedom - Mount Airy News - August 31st, 2020
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- Shevar Perry to Open Solo Exhibit Moments of Freedom August 24th, 2020 - Suburban Journals - August 31st, 2020
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- Freedom and the pursuit of safety - The Boston Globe - August 10th, 2020
- Texas History: Sizing up daily lives in the states freedom colonies - Brownwood Bulletin - August 10th, 2020
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- 'Behind the Blue': 'Embattled Freedom' and Confederate Memorials With Amy Murrell Taylor - UKNow - August 10th, 2020
- Trump's Threat to Press Freedom Is Global - Truthout - August 10th, 2020
- Woman claiming to be from 'Freedom to Breathe Agency' gets into viral exchange with store employee over mask policy | TheHill - The Hill - August 10th, 2020
- UNSW criticised for letter in Chinese with no mention of freedom of speech - The Guardian - August 10th, 2020
- COVID19: Is there freedom in silence? - Financial Mirror - August 10th, 2020
- Freedom and justice for ALL | Other Opinions - Aitkin Independent Age - August 7th, 2020
- Girl Hides Audition From Dad, Finds Her 'Freedom In Singing' Watch What Happens Next - Talent Recap - August 7th, 2020
- Masks to freedom: Wearing masks will bring back freedom - The Milpitas Beat - August 7th, 2020
- Tamika Mallory Of Until Freedom Criticizes The California District Attorneys Association's Request For The NFL To Pull Stephon Clark PSA - PRNewswire - August 7th, 2020
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- Freedom in THE SON! - Blogs - The Hutchinson News - August 7th, 2020
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