Which of these is more important: Freedom or Safety? Throughout the last couple of weeks, I asked this complicated question to classmates and teachers. The results were almost unanimous: “Of course Safety is more important!” But what does this really mean and how do the extremes size up to one another?
First and foremost, we must define what these terms mean and their relationship to one another. Freedom is defined as the power or right to act, speak, or think as one wants without hindrance or restraint. Americans founded our country in a battle for it. Oppressed citizens in many countries dream of it. It has become a beacon of individuality and independence. Safety is defined as the condition of being protected from or unlikely to cause danger, risk, or injury. Physical safety protects your physical body and being. For example, wearing a helmet keeps your head safe (probably). Psychological safety is the protection of your mental state of being from trauma, anxiety or anything else not directly affecting your physical being.
So how do Freedom and Safety relate to one another? Napolitano of the Washington Times writes, “It cannot be balance, because liberty and safety are not equals, as one created the other. It can be only bias — a continual predisposition toward and preference for freedom.”
Freedom is an unalienable right and, in a sense, provides us safety from the government’s censorship and tyranny. However, Freedom also brings an endangerment to both physical and psychological safety. The second amendment, or the right to bear arms, makes it almost comically easy to purchase firearms as some states do not require background checks. Racial slurs and slander can endanger a person’s psychological state as well to the point of harming themselves and other. In some extreme situations, this could result in the harm and discrimination of an entire population (watch any Trump campaign for more than 3 minutes.) Freedom is a double-edged sword that harms the wielder more than it helps.
Safety is a broad concept as people many different opinions on what safety is. If we were to focus on physical safety, we could remove the use of weapons for recreation and protection entirely. After all, many people buy guns because they fear other people have guns. Weapons used in self defense is still violence even if it wasn’t initiated with it. Martelle of the Los Angeles Times writes, “The notion that a good guy with a gun will stop a bad guy with a gun is a romanticized vision of the nature of violent crime.” If nobody owned weapons there would be no need of owning a weapon for self defense, let alone crime. If gun control will protect us physically, what protects us psychologically? This is difficult because many things can trigger emotional and psychological instability. Physical violence like assault, military combat and abuse can cause trauma. Bullying, slander and slurs can also damage a person psychologically. Removing weapons eliminates violence that could threaten a person’s physical and psychological safety and the censorship of media and people could protect a person mentally. However, both of these actions are in extreme violation of the constitution (they are the first 2!). Is safety worth the removal of natural human rights?
Freedom and Safety are two very important social requirements. In the world today, people experience extreme cases of one being prioritized over the other. It is important to recognize the strange dance they have instead of trying to fight one with the other.