Freedom – What does it really mean and what is it worth to you?
Democracy was invented long ago in ancient Greece and it certainly was not perfect as it automatically excluded half of the population from participation because they were female or slaves. All that being said, most of the world thinks of democracy as a pretty good approach to freedom for citizens but as in all things, not everyone agrees.
The header picture is of a piece of the skyline of the largest city in a country that most of the world considers a beacon of freedom in the world. Toronto has become a legitimate “big” city with a population of over 6 million in the greater Toronto area. I arrived yesterday and was able to take a train from Toronto’s Pearson International Airport to Union Station – real big city stuff, finally! Toronto has 20% of the population of the entire country of Canada which might be a little unusual for many world countries but urbanization has impacted Canada as it has the world over.
Freedom in Canada
As I walked around in Toronto last night, passing in front of another failed Trump business, I got to thinking about what Canadians take for granted, their freedom. I found it interesting that in the last two weeks, Donald J. Trump has had this business go into bankruptcy (one of many of his businesses that have done so) and also be elected to the position of President of the United States. It was a weird thing to think about. But as I was walking around in Toronto, seeing how young the population is here I realized that Mr. Trump would not have a chance of getting elected here – these young people value their freedom too much to vote for a man like Mr. Trump – are American cities different?
Freedom in Canada might not be viewed in the same way by Americans. When Americans speak of freedom, they often think of amendments to their constitution like the first amendment (which we have in Canada without an amendment) related to freedom of speech, and their second amendment, the right to bear arms. To them, the ability to carry guns is a sign of their freedom, but in Canada there are definitely restrictions on guns – does that hurt the freedom of Canadians?
Canada has a document called the Charter of Rights and Freedoms that clearly spells out what the government of Canada considers to be freedom for Canadians. In the document, we find paragraph 15 (1) which states: “Every individual is equal before and under the law and has the right to the equal protection and equal benefit of the law without discrimination and, in particular, without discrimination based on race, national or ethnic origin, colour, religion, sex, age or mental or physical disability.” I thought about this paragraph as I walked around Toronto, a true multicultural city. All of the people in Toronto, and in Canada for that matter, have this protection under the law in their country. Does this protection exist now in the United States? From the rhetoric in the election campaign from the candidate that won the election, I would have to say that freedom for many Americans no longer exists within their own country!
Freedom from Violence
As I walk around Toronto, I am comforted by the fact that I feel free as a result of knowing that no one on the street can legally be carrying a gun, unlike in the US. I do not have to worry about someone pulling a gun to protect themselves and therefore shooting me as collateral damage. In Canada we don’t think that the ability to carry guns around in an urban environment adds to our freedom but that it actually takes away our freedom to feel safe. We don’t want to carry guns in urban environments and therefore we don’t allow it.
In rural areas there may be a need to carry a weapon to protect yourself from wolves or a bear and in those situations many Canadians choose to arm themselves, just in case, but not against fellow citizens.
I would argue that freedom from violence from guns adds significantly to freedom in our cities and many Americans which whom I study during courses tell me that they feel very safe in Canadian cities. An added benefit to Canadians is the fact that police in urban environments do not have to expect a gun in every situation and therefore do not often shoot people in self- defense or imagined self- defence.
Freedom from Poverty
I will admit that it is not perfect, but in Canada we have social systems that are designed to protect those in our society who may be having a difficult time financially and as a rule the systems work quite well. First of all, everyone has the right to health care – income makes no difference. A homeless person in Canada has the same access t health care as a millionaire (with the exceptions of dental and vision care and certain services that can be purchased like MRIs, etc.). I am not trying to argue details here, just the fact that the homeless person can walk into the hospital and receive the same health care as anyone. This does not happen in the United States and therefore Americans are less free as a result. I find that sad that the richest country in the world does not care enough about their poor people to provide that freedom.
Poverty is not a nice thing, no matter where you live, but Canada provides more protection from poverty and the effects of poverty than the US does.
Freedom from Terrorist Attack
Now, don’t get me wrong here, there are crazy people everywhere and more to the point, there are crazy religious people everywhere. My argument here is that Canada is much more free from the threat of terrorist attack than the US because normally we don’t make it a habit of arriving in other countries to use our military to “protect” Canadian interests. Canadians have long believed that we should just leave other people alone to live the life they want to rather than trying to change them. There are exceptions to that, like when we participated in Afghanistan following the 911 attack of innocents in New York. We do however resist campaigns like the “weapons -of -mass -destruction bullshit that Bush’s team dreamed up in 2003.
This approach to minding our own business generally results in people believing, rightly, that if they leave us alone to live as we want to, that we will leave them alone – it is a system that works.
All of this improves Canadian freedom from Terrorist attack – the US, not so much.
Freedom as Wealth
I personally think that freedom adds significantly to our wealth. If I lived in the US, I might actually be considered a Libertarian because I believe we should only put laws in place to improve the freedom of our citizens. I want to get up in the morning, go to work, and not be burdened by laws that do not improve my freedom. I do, however, like laws that improve my freedom, such as the law that forces the idiot wanting to drive a car while texting to put away either the phone or the car. Driving safely improves my freedom. Knowing that the person driving beside me cannot legally have a gun in the glove box improves my freedom by reducing the threat of violence. Knowing that my government is not in a foreign country trying to force Canadian values down the throat of people reduces the threat of terrorist attack in my country – I like that freedom.
Trump’s Freedom Grab in America
Like much of the world, we Canadians have watched the US Presidential election campaign there Mr. Trump, a failed businessman and morally bankrupt person in general has promised to reduce the freedom of Americans in many ways, such as making Hispanic feel threatened every day throughout the country, making Black Americans even more afraid of police (and justifiably so), making Muslim Americans afraid for their lives, etc – I could go on and on here, but Trump has received enough free media. In my view, Donald J. Trump has made a huge freedom grab from Americans for his own benefit and America and the world are much poorer for it. Americans can look to Canada for true freedom to see what they might strive for.
Summary – Canadian Freedom; it is worth a lot.
I feel that the freedom that Canadians enjoy as a result of the good behavior of our government in the world community is a very valuable commodity and I am proud to be a Canadian as a result. We do a lot of things right in Canada and as a result increase the wealth of our citizens, me included. We tend to: mind our own business; take care of poorer people; provide health care for everyone; help the threatened in the world, such as Syrians who have had their lives destroyed by failed-foreign policy of other countries; provide safe urban environments where people can feel free of the threat of gun violence; not over-burden our children with public debt to pay for the government’s whims today and just generally try not to mess up the lives of our citizens. I am proud to be a Canadian and disappointed in our American neighbours (yes, spelled with a “u”).