Death And The Politics Of Love
I heard Robert Koerner on the Daniel Pakkala Show not long ago. During the interview he said the highest expression of love is the phrase “as you wish” (insert Princess Bride reference here). According to Koerner, when we really love someone we want for them what they want for themselves. He went on to describe libertarianism as a political system based on love. It occurred to me that there are other ways to express love that can be tied to other political outlooks. This idea was bouncing around in my head when something terrible happened.
My cat, Frankenstein, was struck by a car and killed. He had a bad habit of hanging out at the edge of the road on a corner, and I because he was a black cat I was always worried about him staying out after dark. That night I had a date with my wonderful girlfriend, Kara, and had to leave a bit early. He was a very special cat, and often came when he was called, but it wasn’t unusual that he didn’t show up. He knew when dinner time was, and he still had a few hours, more if he caught his own dinner. I left the porch door open for him, as I had done many nights, and expected to see him waiting when I got home.
I returned several hours later, and was surprised not to see him, but still not alarmed. It wasn’t until I grabbed a flashlight and went out searching that I realized what had happened. I’m not sure when he was hit. He was already stiff when I found him. He could have been lying there already when I left, but that didn’t stop me from blaming myself. If only I had spent more time looking, maybe I would have found him. Maybe he would still be alive.
I want to be clear. I feel very lucky to live in a time when I can afford to feel devastated by the loss of a pet. Just a few generations ago people didn’t reliably reach old age. It was common to lose siblings and family members. My father lost a brother in a boating accident. A couple of years ago, my best friend Ted died. This isn’t the same thing, but it is still heartbreaking.
When you love someone, you want what is best for them. You want to protect them, to give them everything they need, and for them to be happy. Different people respond to these urges in different ways.
Frankenstein could have been an inside cat. I could have monitored his every movement with cameras around the house, and been in control of every moment of his existence. He might have lived longer, but he would have been frustrated and unhappy. Maybe that kind of life works for some cats, but Frankie would have destroyed my house and made my life hell. Even if he could have been domesticated, what would have happened to him if he ever got out? How do you learn without making mistakes? I remember the children of helicopter parents in college. They were the kids snorting coke at 2AM on a weekday
The right wing tends to be motivated by a desire for safety and traditional values. Safety is important, and tradition certainly has its place, but you can’t protect people from themselves. People want to take chances and make mistakes. Sometimes the results are tragic, and sometimes wonderful things happen. Some of us aren’t happy with maintaining the status quo. We need to be allowed to push the boundaries, as long as we don’t hurt anyone else. A government that prevents risky behavior eventually becomes tyrannical.
Maybe the loss of Frankie wouldn’t have hit me so hard if I had more cats. I could have given them all the same standard of living. They could have been kept in cages and received equal amounts of food, attention, and time outside. None of them would have been has happy as Frankie was, though. “Free love” sounds good until you see it in practice. I’ve met more than a few people who claim to “love everyone”, but actually don’t love anybody. Individualism is part of love. If someone tells you they love you, but they say the same thing to everyone else, it doesn’t mean a whole lot. What would have made another cat happy would not have made Frankie happy, and why would we expect it to?
Left wing politics values equality over liberty and safety. The collective good is placed above the individual good. When individuals can’t choose what is best for themselves, however, the collective standard of living goes down. By claiming to act in the best interest of everyone, a left wing government doesn’t act in anyone’s best interest. No individual can achieve as much success or happiness as they would in a free society. Innovation stops, and the society becomes a gray, uniform place. The economy eventually stalls and, in the most extreme examples of the totalitarian left, people starve to death.
What made Frankie happy was living a life of freedom. He loved being outside. He knew that in the house he would be warm, well fed, safe, and loved, but that wasn’t where he wanted to spend his time. He wanted to go on adventures in the woods with our dog. He wanted to hide in the bushes and hunt small animals and bugs. The house was safe, but also boring. It would have been selfish of me to force him to live a life with less joy, just so that I could avoid this sorrow.
The most happiness and success in life and for society can be achieved by allowing people to live the life of their own choosing. If you want to live a safe and traditional life, then by all means do so. If you want to start a charity to help the poor, then all power to you. If you want to live on the edge and push boundaries, then it should be your right to do so. Freedom is not easy. There will be rough patches, and some of them will be tragic. Nothing is perfect in this world, but that won’t change the way that I love.
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