"When you hear someone demanding inchoate generalized 'freedom,' ask whether he cares at all that millions of workers..."

"... who clean the zoos and buff the nails and intubate the grandmas are not free. These people are cannon fodder for your liberty. The long-standing tension between individual liberty and the collective good is complicated, and and as Kendi is quick to point out, the balance often tilts, trade-offs are made, federal and state governments shift clumsily along together, and the balance tilts again. Nobody denies that individual liberty is essential in a democracy, but in addition to parsing whether we as a collective do better in providing the 'freedom from' while also offering some 'freedom to,' it’s worth asking whether those making zero-sum claims about liberty are willing to sacrifice anything for freedom, or are just happily sacrificing you."

From "Whose Freedom Counts?/Anti-lockdown protesters are twisting the idea of liberty" by Dahlia Lithwick (at Slate).

Kendi is Ibram X. Kendi who has an article in The Atlantic called "We’re Still Living and Dying in the Slaveholders’ Republic/The pandemic has brought the latest battle in the long American war over communal well-being." Lithwick instructs us that there is "a long-standing difference between core notions of what he calls freedom to and freedom from."

Lithwick's phrasing is confusing. It's "long-standing," so it's not as though Kendi invented the distinction between "freedom from" and "freedom to." Two out of 4 of FDR's "Four Freedoms" were "freedom from" (from want and from fear).  I remember an early interview with Barack Obama, in which he observed that Americans think too much about "freedom to" and not enough about "freedom from."

Lithwick writes:
The freedom to harm, [Kendi] points out, has its lineage in the slaveholder’s constitutional notion of freedom: “Slaveholders disavowed a state that secured any form of communal freedom—the freedom of the community from slavery, from disenfranchisement, from exploitation, from poverty, from all the demeaning and silencing and killing.” Kendi continues by pointing out that these two notions of freedom have long rubbed along uneasily side by side, but that those demanding that states “open up” so they may shop, or visit zoos, are peeling back the tension between the two....
How do you "peel back" "tension"? I had that image of 2 notions rubbing along uneasily side by side for a long time, and then these people who want to shop are "peeling back the tension." That kind of vaguely titillating metaphor is unfair to the reader. I'm seeing 2 notions in bed with each other and the would-be shoppers bursting in and ripping back the sheets. Aha! We see what you're doing! What a distraction! But I suppose that because slavery was invoked, I'm expected to listen without protest while Kendi's solemn, censorious lecture is promoted by an over-excited Lithwick. I resist. Sorry. I do hear what you're saying, and I see how well it works to justify depriving us of all freedom. There's never enough freedom from all the things in the world that might hurt us if we're not kept in eternal lockdown.

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