Point of No Return — Let’s try worrying less about what other people do

“The land of the free, and the home of the brave.”

That’s a beautiful notion, isn’t it? Seriously. Don’t just mouth the words while you stand up at a town meeting or sporting event. Take a moment to let that remarkable thought roll around your skull.

“The land of the free” describes a soverign nation built on the premise that each of her citizens not only has the right to live the life that he or she sees fit to live, but also a moral obligation to embrace the independence inherently granted to each citizen. If one feels stifled or oppressed, it is that individual’s duty to channel his or her inner bravery and fight.

And then fight some more.

We could get into gun rights, or women’s right to choose, or people’s rights to live their lives according to the religious tenets they hold dear — all have been challenged by others who disagree. But all of you already know how you feel about those issues, right? 

No, I’m going with something far less political, but maybe just as important when considering the gravity of what makes a truly free society — the freedom to be who we want to be, and behave the way we choose to behave, as long as our behavior is not infringing upon another individual.

You see, having laws to protect our liberties is vital in a free society, but so is a collective behavior by the citizenry in respecting one another’s freedoms. 

I wrote in this space a few weeks ago about how my 3-year-old daughter began eschewing her toy dinosaurs and sharks, instead opting for more “girl-appropriate” unicorns and mermaids. It’s not that I was upset that she chose to start playing with other things, as much as I was bothered by her explanation being that girls don’t play with dinosaurs. 

Sure, part of that is me being a father who hates seeing his daughter let go of things that once made her happy, but it’s also a situation where I get saddened by the premise that other people’s expectations should shape or form the way we live our lives as free individuals.

Take Chesapeake, Va., for example. The city has found its way into the national spotlight lately because it has laws on the books prohibiting kids older than 12 from trick-or-treating on Halloween night. According to a story in the New York Post, anyone caught trick-or-treating over the age of 12 can be punished with misdemeanor charges punishable by up to 30 days in jail and up to $100 in fines.

In their defense, it seems that this “controversy” is only an issue because national media outlets have been making it an issue.

“The City of Chesapeake’s Ordinance related to [trick-or-treating] on Halloween is more than 45 years old,” the city said in a statement. “In that time, no one has been arrested or charged with any crime under this Ordinance. Chesapeake Police officers will not impede persons who are clearly over the age of 12 from [trick-or-treating], provided that they are doing so in an otherwise lawful, safe, and secure manner.”

So, as an outside observer to this situation, it appears to me that this law is basically in the books so police have some leverage if they encounter some teenagers causing mayhem on Halloween night. Sure, vandalism and destruction to private property are against the law as it is, but by having a law like this available to police, they could get some kids off the street who they suspect are up to no good, without any real evidence.

And, hey, that’s cool.

But, as is often the case in this age of online instant gratification, the comments on these stories were what bothered me the most.

Many people were saying that this law is a good thing because they believe that there’s no good reason for a teenager to be out trick-or-treating unless they’re trying to cause trouble or they’re preying on young kids. One person suggested that, “something is wrong with a 13 year old who still goes out trick or treating.”

As our president likes to say lately, “Whatever happened to innocent until proven guilty?”

Maybe a 13-year-old kid wants to go trick-or-treating because that kid thinks it’s fun. Maybe a 15-year-old kid enjoys going out in costume with a couple friends because that group isn’t in to parties or dating or sitting around watching Netflix all night and instead wants to do something different. Maybe a 14-year-old couple wants to go trick-or-treating because of a big pile of none-of-your-business-why.

I was never a big Halloween guy growing up. Don’t get me wrong — as a kid, I loved walking around in a costume with my dad and harvesting as much candy as I could from the people in my neighborhood. But as I hit middle school, I was more into watching scary movies with friends or chasing girls, then stealing my sister’s candy when she got home.

But that was me. That was my choice.

If people aren’t bothering other people, why do we occupy so much of our time and energy worrying about what they’re doing? Let it go, folks. Let a lot of it... just, go.