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OP-ED | On Beer, Guns, and Freedom

by | Jul 4, 2014 10:30am () Comments | Commenting has expired | Share
Posted to: Civil Liberties, Equality, Opinion

There was an uneasy energy in Harvard Yard as former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg called the attempt to stifle conservative voices on college campuses at Harvard and across the nation a modern form of McCarthyism.

“There is an idea floating around college campuses — including here at Harvard — that scholars should be funded only if their work conforms to a particular view of justice,” he said. “There’s a word for that idea: censorship. And it is just a modern-day form of McCarthyism.”

I was there on May 29 as he delivered the commencement address, which was met by mostly tepid applause, and sometimes by an uncomfortable silence.

It was not the address most of us were expecting, at least based on the response of the crowd, as he called out the “tyrannical tendencies of monarchs, mobs, and majorities.”

For those of us who are concerned with the direction of freedom of expression on college campuses, the effect was electrifying. Here he was, on the most elite Ivy League campus, calling out the professors and students who have effectively drowned out the voices they disagree with by opposing their right to speak on campus or by yelling them down when they do speak.

That there is a political bias amongst professors is obvious — Bloomberg cited Federal Election Commission data from the 2012 presidential race that showed “96 percent of all campaign contributions from Ivy League faculty and employees went to Barack Obama.”

“There was more disagreement among the old Soviet Politburo than there is among Ivy League donors,” he said.

His words bring to mind some of the recent actions of professors in Connecticut, including the University of Connecticut professor who shouted down Christians who were trying to do outreach on campus. And there was the Eastern Connecticut State University professor who went on an anti-Republican rant during class.

After lambasting the faculty for a while, Bloomberg then gave the liberals in the crowd something to cheer about as he spoke about guns and climate change.

Gun owners might find Bloomberg’s emphasis on freedom ironic given his vocal and committed advocacy to making gun ownership more difficult.

Many of our modern political debates hinge on our different conceptions of freedom, and how much of it we should surrender as members of a civil society. How much of our economic freedom, our individual liberties, do we surrender to benefit the greater good?

There are those who are ideologically rigid — anarchists, communists, and staunch libertarians — who are confident on where they stand on the issue of liberty and government. Some would see us surrender all to the will of the state, some almost nothing, and then there are those who see no place at all for a prevailing political authority.

The rest of us fall somewhere in between these extremes, trying to find a balance between giving up some freedom for the good of all, while maintaining the individual rights and liberties we cherish.

Our personal prejudices come into play when we decide what freedoms to restrict and what freedoms to champion.

We live in a state where a teenaged girl is deemed mature enough to handle the psychological and physical effects of an abortion without parental consent, but we won’t let our high school students see political websites on school computers.

Our prejudices are exposed as we decide what information we will listen to and what we will ignore. Gov. Dannel P. Malloy showed his own prejudice as he openly criticized gun manufacturers at the same time that he celebrated the opening of a new microbrewery, to add to the “Connecticut Brewery Trail.”

In 2010, guns were used in the deaths of about 35,000 people in the United States, and about two-thirds of those deaths were suicides. A new study published by the Center for Disease Control says alcohol use is to blame for about 88,000 deaths a year, but we haven’t heard our lawmakers calling for a registry of alcohol owners (nor am I advocating for one).

Every time our government grows and expands, every time a new law is passed, our freedom is restricted a little bit more. Sometimes those laws and regulations are necessary, but when there is a lack of clarity about a law or a regulation’s effects, we should err on the side of freedom.

As Bloomberg said, “Standing up for the rights of others is in some ways even more important than standing up for your own rights. Because when people seek to repress freedom for some, and you remain silent, you are complicit in that repression and you may well become its victim.”

Suzanne Bates is a writer living in South Windsor with her family. While traveling across the country as an Air Force spouse, she worked for news organizations including the Associated Press, the New Hampshire Union Leader, and Good Morning America Weekend. She recently completed a research fellowship at the Yankee Institute. Follow her on Twitter @suzebates.

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(9) Archived Comments

posted by: shinningstars122 | July 4, 2014  1:45pm


Suzanne you start with a very compelling premise but sadly, and once again, you diminish it to yet another partisan drive by of Malloy…enough already.

How about commenting in how the SCOTUS ruled in the Hobby Lobby case this past week and how that will effect millions of women’s freedom moving forward?

You can’t have it both ways. I mean are your for gun control or just gun control against the mentally ill?

The CCDL would love to know.

The side you criticize the most are actually being outdone by the voices who claim “freedom” as their most cherished principle.

It is it is simply their own narrative of freedom.

I think in your piece you tried to make that point.

The bottom line is in many ways conservatism equates to an over reach by ethnocentric religious beliefs.

As we are witnessing now this is where its gets messy since we are a secular nation, contrary to what Justice Scalia might believe,it is very hard for these people;or business’ such as Hobby Lobby, to be objective and have a tolerance for other people’s views and beliefs.

That is why the founding fathers ensured the CLEAR separation of Church and State. 

That is clearly and systematical being removed all over the country.

Sadly, or maybe you are rejoicing, we now have expanded religious “freedom” to for profit business’.

But hey maybe that is not such a great sin in comparison to Malloy’s Beer Trail?

posted by: Joebigjoe | July 4, 2014  8:31pm

Shining Star you really need to change your news sources.

Freedom of Religion doesnt end at churchdoors or maybe it should in your societal view which is more like what Christians have to deal with in Egypt.

Hobby Lobby was fine with providing contraception for employees as part of the insurance and they did. You dont want to get pregnant or make someone pregnant then use it. Their suit was about paying for abortions which as a two person closely held owners of a corporation they didnt agree with. If I was a one owner company (corporation) I would gladly pay for my employees insurance that included contraception but not for abortions. Abortions that are medically necessary are covered in the Hobby Lobby world, and they are against the throw away human life.

I have said on this site before that I accept,but I dont celebrate, that in the first trimester abortions may be necessary, but I can assure you that I am not OK with paying for decisions people make to abort. Pay for it themselves or people like you can pay for it. Have George Soros pay for it or fund raise for the indigent.

I always thought I heard that it was their body so let them decide. Fine, save your pennies and decide for yourself, or use contraceptives. 

How is Hobby Lobby not tolerant when people on your side of the aisle don’t even let them celebrate Christmas the way they want to but have to water it down to say Happy Holidays.

Go see the new Dinesh D’Souza movie on America.

posted by: Ruu222 | July 5, 2014  8:12am

About 40,000 deaths a year caused by motor vehicle crashes. I doubt that two thirds of those were suicides. I wonder how many of those gun deaths were a result of saving lives.

posted by: Ruu222 | July 5, 2014  8:20am

Hey shinningstar122, does women’s freedom mean they should get what they want at someone elses expense? All 20 forms of approved birth control are still available legally. All scotus did was to require that the consumer pays for it, not the public.

posted by: Commuter | July 5, 2014  11:22am

Thought this one might be going somewhere with the anecdote about Bloomberg. Alas the piece devolves quickly.

The term “prejudice” as employed here is just incorrect, and its misapplication perhaps reveals a reductive mindset.

That might explain the author’s evident inability to apprehend that the piece itself is an example of the very thing she is attempting to illuminate.

posted by: shinningstars122 | July 7, 2014  10:14pm


Joe you are complete misguided in your reasoning. This was from Mother Jones and was common knowledge in most respected media sources.

“The Affordable Care Act had listed 20 forms of contraception that had to be covered as preventive services. But Hobby Lobby, a craft supply chain, claimed that Plan B, Ella, and two types of IUD were abortifacients that violated the owners’ religious principles. The science was against Hobby Lobby—these contraceptives do not prevent implantation of a fertilized egg and are not considered abortifacients in the medical world—but the conservative majority bought Hobby Lobby’s argument that it should be exempted from the law.”

I mean are you a misogynist?

Or is your bromance with Sean Hannity affecting you?

Folks like you and corporations like Hobby Lobby should not be the judge, jury, and the prosecution when it comes to women’s health issues.

I will go see that dudes movie…the trailer and his reason is hilarious.

It is also getting “wonderful” reviews as well.

posted by: shinningstars122 | July 7, 2014  10:21pm


@Ruu222 most people who are employed by any company pay toward their own health benefits so it is not a “free” ride for them.

Now if you take Viagra well Hobby Lobby won’t take that away from you.

Your rationale is simply absurd and you clearly have no working knowledge of how the insurance industry actually works.

Healthy people pay for the needs and care of sick people everyday…are you going to start demanding that end too?!?

@Commuter shoots! And scores!!!

posted by: Joebigjoe | July 8, 2014  8:47am

Shining stars you are mistaken. Hobby Lobby was willing to cover 16 of the 20 forms of contraception. The 4 they didnt want to cover where post pregnancy abortion related. They won the case because of Bill Clintons Defense of Religion Act.

In your world I guess abortion is a basic womans health issue and right that EVERYONE should pay for. You’re out of your mind with all due respect.

posted by: SocialButterfly | July 13, 2014  9:19pm

shinningstars122:  Why do you support one of Obama’s many failed policical that rate him as the Worst President since World War II in the latest Quinnipiac national poll?  ObamaCare is also a failed national disaster that Obama shoved down people’s throats.

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