Blogger-SMS | Déjà Vu ~ Times

The contraries of freedom

In a nearby rural community, there has been a vigourous, ongoing discussion in the local paper about the headlines and pictures that “grace” the “Magazines at the Checkout Counter.” The initial complainant (a young mother with several young children frequently in tow) has been immensely relieved and gratified that the grocery store chose to heed her concerns and to initiate a cover-up of the worst offenders at the checkout. Others soon become outraged, claiming that their fundamental freedoms and rights have been infringed; that mothers and other supporters of the cover-up were mis-educating children to be ashamed of semi-nudity and of sex; and how dared these complainants impose their rigid values on others!

This same “freedom” controversy has raged in more towns and cities than we can count. (“Déjà vu all over again!”as Yogi Berra would say.)

These are my thoughts, entered into the fray.

Letter to the Editor:

The contraries of freedom: Some people want the freedom to say and display in public anything they wish. Others want the freedom to use and enjoy public spaces without being subjected to anything they view as offensive. Most take a position somewhere between these opposites.

Some say “If you don’t like (… … …), then don’t read, watch, go there,” etc. Others say “I should be free to navigate in public without my values being affronted.”

Some object to any constraints, seemingly unaware that such a position imposes its own form of constraint on others who do not see as they do.

In light of these contraries, has not Extra Foods taken (like other stores in various locales) the most reasonable and respectful course to accommodate opposing views?

Isn’t EVERY customer STILL FREE to examine or purchase ANY magazine offered for sale? STILL FREE to walk to the magazine aisle (where most magazines cover each other—without anyone’s complaint!)? And now, additionally FREE to proceed through checkout without the blizzard of sensational displays?

If everyone is STILL FREE to look at any magazine they wish, perhaps the present controversy is NOT really about freedom, but about inconvenience and misunderstanding. Perhaps we should consider the contrary of Mr. Hendericks’ view (TCS, 5 August 2010, p. 8)—and regard the “cover-up of covers” as an extension of freedom, not a restriction—a type of community ClearPlay where MORE people are free to avoid things they find distasteful—without altering IN ANY WAY magazine content or the purchasing choice of others.

For those who lament the slippery slope of censorship, there are others who equally lament the slippery slope where private (as well as profane) matters have become so public and so universal that many are forced by this “freedom” to see and hear things they would prefer to “see not” and “hear not.” Do their preferences and values not merit respectful consideration on the continuum of freedom?

Extra Foods’ action seems the fairest win-win possible in this controversy. Magazines are freely available with only minor inconvenience to overt/covert scrutiny at checkout (easily remedied with a little wrist action)—thus leaving ALL customers FREE to exit with fewer visual intrusions (and who doesn’t wish for a little more calm in the midst of our troubled world!?)


PS: In the spirit of opposites and equity—If the cover-up of “checkout” magazines is so offensive, would those offended consider taking their own advice recently given to others, namely: “to shop in places where they do not feel offended or inconvenienced”? Surely we can see! there is no cause or need for the exclusion of anyone. Thank you Extra Foods for fairly considering the freedoms of all complainants.