John Green on Freedom
By David Henderson
It has become so standard, when a family has had a tragedy, for a family member to advocate some further restriction on freedom even if that restriction would create more tragedies than it would prevent. It’s kind of understandable. When a family member dies, we feel so impotent. We want to do something. I’ve never had something like John Green’s tragedy of losing a beautiful vibrant little girl. The closest I’ve come is my brother’s suicide, which was a shock, but the suicide of a 22-year old is different from the murder of a 9-year old.
Because people often want to do something, I cut a lot of slack for people who have had a loss and who want the government to “do something.” I’ll still argue against them, mind you, but with a lot of sympathy.
But John Green’s reaction is the first publicized one I can think of of a family member who had his grief but who didn’t let that grief dictate what he thought was good policy. Indeed, my own view is that when you have your grief outright, you are doing something and will feel less need to advocate that the government “do something.”
Watch these two videos. In the first one, on NBC Today, Meredith Viera does a beautifully sensitive job of asking questions and then letting John Green speak. It’s about 10 minutes. The whole thing is worth watching, but if you’re rushed for time, fast forward to about the 9:40 point. With no real prompting from Viera, Green says:
In a free society, we’re going to be subject to people like this; I prefer this to the alternative.
John Green’s bluntness reminds me of that of his father, former major league baseball manager Dallas Green. (They look a lot alike also.)
In another interview on Fox News Channel with Megan Kelly, he goes into this at length. Interestingly, Green “gets” randomness. After having said that he told his son, Christina Green’s older brother, that you can’t solve problems with guns, he goes on to point out that this was a random act. (0:20 to about 0:45). In response to a question from Megan about what lesson we should learn from this, he says that there will always be random acts. (2:27).
His daughter was born on 9/11 and he points out, with little prompting, that since 9/11, the restrictions on air travel have made travel “a nightmare.” He even says that he knows his daughter wouldn’t want this murder and the other murders to lead to more restrictions. He says, “We don’t need any more restrictions on our society.” (1:30 to 1:50).
John Green ends by saying:
If we live in a free society like the United States where we are more free than anywhere else, we are subject to things like this happening and I think that’s the price we have to pay.
Frankly, I think we would have to pay that price even if we lived in a substantially less free society. Sure, with stricter gun control, Jared Loughner might not have been able to get a gun but also, with stricter gun control, criminals would have an increased advantage against law-abiding citizens.
But that makes John Green’s comments all the more impressive. He’s saying that even if freedom leads to more random acts of violence against innocent people, reducing freedom is even worse.