Geert Wilders’s Warning to America; and, What is freedom?

Do you know why America is in a better state than Europe? Because you enjoy more freedom than Europeans. And do you know why Americans enjoy more freedom than Europeans? Because you are still allowed to tell the truth. In Europe and Canada people are dragged to court for telling the truth about Islam.
— Geert Wilders, Nashville, Tennessee., May 12, 2011

Geert Wilders is in Nashville, where he addressed (or is going to address?) the Tennessee legislature. I haven’t seen that speech yet, but The Brussels Journal has posted another speech Wilders delivered yesterday at the Cornerstone Church in Nashville.

- end of initial entry -

Buck O. writes:

This concept of “freedom” is way too confusing. Two days ago, George W. Bush said about terrorism that:

“The long-term solution is to promote a better ideology, which is freedom. Freedom is universal,” Bush said. “People who do not look like us want freedom just as much.”

LA replies:

My answer:

When people praise freedom, they must clearly state what they are talking about!

They must say, “By ‘freedom,’ I mean THIS. I don’t mean THIS.”

To laud an undefined, unqualified “freedom” is indistinguishable from radical liberalism or libertarianism.

If we simply believe in “freedom,” undefined, then presumably we believe in, e.g., the freedom of people to move to whatever country they want to move to; the freedom of people to engage in whatever behaviors they choose to; the freedom of convicted felons to have sex change operations and have the state pay for it, the freedom of Muslims to have an Islamic state where they are free to execute apostates and persecute Christians. These and many other things are constantly demanded today in the name of “freedom.” And by the way, have you ever seen a single neoconservative or Bushite even notice, let alone speak up against, the persecution and violence that have fallen on the Christians of Iraq as a result of the “freedom” that we have planted there among the Muslim majority? If we lived in a properly ordered society, the neoconservative democracy promoters would be so thoroughly discredited and rejected that no one would ever hear from then again.

If conservatives want to sound like conservatives and not like radical liberals, it is incumbent on them, when calling for freedom, to articulate a principle of order that limits freedom. For example, they could praise “ordered freedom,” or “liberty under law.” Such phrases place freedom (or, more properly liberty) in a social, moral, and constitutional context. They convey the idea that freedom properly understood exists within an order of truth that limits freedom. Without limitation, freedom is license. Forty years ago, all American conservatives understood these things. Now (insofar as we can judge from their public statements) virtually none of them do.

What I’ve said here is not a criticism of Geert Wilders. To the contrary, Wilders defines the freedom he is praising. It is the freedom to speak about important public matters, such as the nature of Islam. Wilders is not calling for some unlimited, undefined freedom, as George W. Bush does.

Gintas writes:

When someone in Canada or Europe is dragged to court for speaking the truth, is he required by the court to tell the truth in court? In the US a man on the witness stand swears to tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth. How far are we from the day where a man swears to tell the truth except for the truth he spoke for which he is on trial?

LA replies:

That’s not a problem. The type of statement for which he is charged, e.g., “Islam is a threat,” is different from the type of statement he would be asked to make in court, e.g., “I said that Islam is a threat.” The first is an opinion, the second is a fact.

Paul K. writes:

“Mush From the Wimp” was a headline over a Boston Globe editorial about a speech by President Carter in 1980. (It had been penciled in as a joke but accidentally appeared in print.)

When I read statements from George W. Bush such as that Buck O. quotes, I put it under a headline “Ignorance From the Ignoramus.” I’m sure if you challenged the former president to define freedom in a meaningful way, he would stare at you blankly.

Buck O. writes:

Paul K. writes: “he would stare at you blankly.”

You mean like this?


LA replies:

That’s the Bush look I talked about after his first debate with Kerry in 2004. I said Bush had the facial expression of a back-country patriarch looking annoyedly at his importunate nephew who had just woken him up in the middle of the night. In fact, Bush had that scrunched-up, irritated, aggressively mindless expression on his face more and more throughout his second term.

Greg W. writes:

People today don’t understand freedom, period. I truly believe this. I cannot tell you how many arguments I have had with friends about freedom. Programs such as Obamacare make us more free because it protects more citizens. This is an actual statement from an acquaintance. People actually believe that more government makes you more free, because it’s protecting you.

Most believe freedom is the exact opposite of what it is, at least with my generation. I normally start my explanation of freedom by stating “absolute freedom is anarchy.” People are amazed, wide-eyed that I would say such a thing. But it makes a good point I think and is relevant here. Freedom must be defined by a country through laws, social mores, etc. This should be common sense, but I don’t think it is.

When President Bush says something like “The long-term solution is to promote a better ideology, which is freedom,” the statement has no meaning whatsoever if you think of absolute freedom as anarchy.

Another aspect of freedom people do not comprehend: with freedom comes inherent danger. If I do not let my kids go outside, ever, for fear they will be kidnapped, I guarantee half of this country would say I was protecting their freedom. They would not understand that by letting them play outside, they could get hit by a car, kidnapped, or anything bad God-forbid, but they are more free; hence, with freedom comes danger and risk. This of course is why we limit freedom by writing laws to enable us to maintain order, otherwise, it’s anarchy. I know the readers of VFR know this, but I just wanted to share that the younger generation of people, my generation (I’m in my late twenties), haven’t a clue.

The story I shared above, just insert this as a parable when discussing almost any form of government protection (airport security) as it relates to the erosion of freedom.

Posted by Lawrence Auster at May 13, 2011 01:24 PM | Send

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