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Choosing Not To Be Free – By Captain Shawn Keller

January 29, 2007

I’ve already done one year in Iraq and will be going back for another soon.  A lot of people “thank me for my service to the Country” and I suppose most of them genuinely mean it.  Some people even go so far as to thank me for “fighting for their freedom,” but the cynic in me is starting to question how much Americans truly want to be free.

Smoking bans are of course the latest example.  It’s not enough that restaurant owners can choose to make their establishment smoke-free or patrons and employees can choose which type of environment they prefer.  Most people now expect the government to limit freedom for the sake of protecting us from ourselves or their not happy with the choices others make.

Part of freedom is being free to make the wrong decision, freedom to fail and freedom to be stupid.  Part of freedom is engaging in self-destructive behavior that others may find objectionable as long as you accept the consequences of your own behavior.   If you choose to enter a smoke-filled restaurant, for example, you have to accept the consequence of second-hand smoke.

Of course government meddling in restaurants and bars is nothing new – just look at all the drama that played out over mini-bottles or video poker – not to mention the ban on trans-fats currently playing out in other states but will soon make its way here.

We’ve lost the freedom not to wear a seat belt anymore.  We’ve never even had the freedom to play a friendly game poker with the neighbors.  Mention school choice and most people shudder at the idea of having to make decisions in the education of their children.  The same goes for private retirement accounts in lieu of our faltering social security system.  Socialized health care is just around the corner.  The government routinely dictates minimum wage to private companies.  The list goes on and on.

So, please, I know I don’t speak for all veterans, but as long as you choose not to be free, don’t thank me for “fighting for your freedom.”

Captain Shawn Keller
US Army Reserves
1443 Cecilia Drive
Charleston, SC 29407

21 Comments leave one →
  1. Bonnie Alba permalink
    January 29, 2007 3:52 PM

    Captain Keller,
    Thank you for your brilliant and implicit examples of how we are losing our freedom and liberty.
    Bonnie Alba
    Keep up the Good Fight! even if half the citizens don’t realize the danger we are in on all sides.

  2. afterechoes permalink
    January 29, 2007 4:35 PM

    Perhaps we have lost our passion for Liberty.

    I am reminded of the lyrics from Neil Peart of Rush in honor of Hemingway.

    Sadder still to watch it die
    Than never to have known it
    For you the blind who once could see
    The bell tolls for thee.

    For those who stand on watch for liberty. And pray that she will lift up her eyes once more.

    The Bell tolls for thee.

    God Bless

  3. Anthony Kidd permalink
    January 29, 2007 4:39 PM

    Captain Keller;
    I fully agree with the bulk of your comments regarding the issue surrounding freedom. However, I have to “agree to disagree” with you regarding the smoking bans. Although the “right” to smoke is a personal decision, no one has the right to infringe on the rights of others. A restaurant (in your example)serves two types of people:smokers and non-smokers. And though I am a “former” smoker, those who have chosen not to smoke have the same rights as those who choose to smoke.
    So, where exactly does one draw a line?
    Much like the consumption of alcohol in this state. Those who consume alcohol have a “right” to do so; but do they also have the “right,” as most claim,to leave that bar or club in an intoxicated state? These who chose to indugle are surely endangering their own lives, but the lives of other unsuspecting motorist.
    Does the desire to be truly “free” encompass this area as well?
    I thank you from the bottom of my heart for your’s and other military personnel for your gallant efforts and sacrifices.And as you so apltly said, American’s — at least today’s generation — appear to think “freedom” to do as we please is granted in the Constitution. Freedom cost something. Just read what our Founding Fathers gave, and sacrificed, for the freedoms we share today.
    May God bless you, along with the men and women who sacrifice daily in making sure America does not become the next battle front for terrorist as is was on September 1, 2001.

  4. Tara Manteghi permalink
    January 29, 2007 5:24 PM

    Captain Keller,

    While I agree about most of what you wrote, I find your comments regarding smoke-free restaurants, not carefully thought through. You insinuate that non-smokers CHOOSE to eat in smoke-filled restaurants, and want others to conform. From my perspective, prior to the smoking ban in restaurants in Greenville, I knew of not one single restaurant that provided a non-smoking environment. I challenge you to provide a list of more than 2 or 3. At best, there were the non-smoking sections that smoked easily wafted through. I have a dad who has congestive heart failure that was brought on by second-hand smoke. I am currently pregnant with my second child that I prefer to have born free of birth defects. I myself, along with my son and husband, and many other people I know, prefer not to be FORCED to inhale smoke from others’ cancer-sticks! Are you suggesting that we all be forced to eat carry out food and/or eat at MAYBE one smoke-free restaurant in all of the upstate so the smokers can FREELY kill themselves as well as the innocent bystanders around them? I think not! Where did our freedom go? Are we not entitled as well?

  5. Tara Manteghi permalink
    January 29, 2007 5:28 PM

    BTW – I got so emotional about the smoking issue, that I neglected to thank you for your service to our country. Thank you from the bottom of my heart! Your service means so much to me and my family. May God bless you and keep you safe!

  6. Patrick H. permalink
    January 29, 2007 5:37 PM

    Captain Keller:

    Please run for office.

    Mr. Kidd:

    Luckily we’re still allowed to chose where we eat and drink in this country. There are many bars and restaurants who choose, without the strong arm of the government, to restrict or ban smoking. We’re given the choice of patronizing any establishment we’d like. I can’t tell you how refreshing it is to enjoy a beverage in a smoke-free environment, but what’s more refreshing is the fact that the bar was free to choose for themselves. Mr. Kidd, if you start restricting free enterprise like this, what’s next? This great nation of ours is slowly becoming the police-state and few seem to care.

  7. Patrick H. permalink
    January 29, 2007 6:07 PM

    Ms. Manteghi:

    I located a list of Columbia restaurants and bars who CHOOSE to be smoke free. The list is too long to insert here (if my excel skills are up to snuff, it’s about 320 establishments). If you’d like to see the list, please go to:

    I know this is only the list for Columbia, but you will find many others in places where businesses and patrons still have the freedom to choose for themselves, and don’t need the government to make the choice for them.

  8. Shawn Keller permalink
    January 29, 2007 6:35 PM

    I didn’t really expect to have this kind of response so soon. I appreciate all the comments and opinions. You gotta love internet!

    Patrick found a list of smoke-free restaurants in Columbia for Tara and has a similar list for the Charleston area. This is a great example of how our free-market economy is supposed to work – consumers influencing the business with their pocket book, not with the police power of government.

    To carry it a step further, I’m alergic to peanut products. If I consume anything with peanut oil, I go into anaphalatic shock and if I don’t get to my epinephrine injection, then I could die.

    With the numerous smoking bans having set a precendent, should I be able to force restaurants (like Chick-Filet, Popeye’s, Texas Road House, most Chinese and all Tai) to become peanut-free? Of course not. I simply find out if that restaurant uses any peanut products and, if so, I just go somewhere else.

    I don’t let my personal preference, even if there is a legitimate medical reason, to limit the choices of other people.


  9. E.P. Corrigan, jr. permalink
    January 29, 2007 6:41 PM

    Recall Janis Joplin grating Kris Kristoforsen’s sad ballad refrain: “Freedom’s just another word for noth’ left to lose”.

  10. January 29, 2007 6:42 PM

    Second-Hand Smokescreens,2933,26109,00.html

    Welcome to Heartland’s Smoker’s Lounge!

  11. Tara Manteghi permalink
    January 29, 2007 6:53 PM

    Mr. Corrigan….what a silly comment! That is ONE restaurant, where smoking is typically at most.

    BTW Mr. Keller, if you would be so kind to dig up one of those lists of restaurants for those of us in Anderson, SC….that would be greatly appreciated. I’ll bet there aren’t even close to 300 of those! Sorry that I am not close enough to Columbia to go eat there!

    So far my search for a smoke-free restaurant listing in Anderson has come up with nothing!

  12. Tara Manteghi permalink
    January 29, 2007 6:55 PM

    Oops, that was Shawn’s silly comment! Sorry Mr. Corrigan! Although I’m not a Joplin fan, I was ot commenting on your choice of music.

  13. Tara Manteghi permalink
    January 29, 2007 7:01 PM

    My dear schotline…love that “smoke screen” article you conveniently posted. However….that does not change the fact that secondhand smoke brought on my father’s congestive heart failure. What say ye to that?

  14. Tara Manteghi permalink
    January 29, 2007 7:03 PM


    Please do not get me wrong, I’m not for government controlling anymore than they have to. I am for more people/restaurants being pro-active in providing a smoke-free environment for those who would like to have it. Unfortunately, there aren’t an over abundant of those local to me willing to make that choice! I have noticed recently how many restaurants locally are at least making Sundays smoke-free in their restaurants for the “church crowd.” I’d just hate to think they could only comfortable have a meal out on Sundays. What a shame!

  15. Tara Manteghi permalink
    January 29, 2007 7:05 PM

    BTW, forgive me if I get the names associated with certain postings mixed up. They all somewhat start to blend together after a while.

    Have a great day!

  16. Patrick H. permalink
    January 29, 2007 7:32 PM

    Ms. Manteghi:

    Here is what I would suggest:

    Find a restaurant you like, find a few like-minded friends, and write letters to the restaurant-tell them that their business would improve if they banned smoking. Restaurant owners seem to be receptive to customers comments. If it doesn’t work try someplace else. This is how Americans have traditionally affected the market, that is, with their wallet.

    I don’t like the smell of curry. I know other people who find this spice displeasing. Does that mean that the government should ban the use of curry in restaurants?? No, I just don’t go to Indian restaurants! Many people do like curry. I don’t. If no one likes curry, restaurant goes out of business or follows the market forces to no longer use curry in their dishes.

    This is how it ought to work: if you don’t like it, don’t buy it. It really is that simple.

  17. Tara Manteghi permalink
    January 29, 2007 7:58 PM


    No offense, but the “smell” of something being displeasing versus the “smell” of cigs causing congestive heart failure or complicating asthmatic conditions are two different things.

    Why do people seem not to care that inhaling second hand smoke does actually harm people?!?!?

  18. Joey Douan permalink
    January 29, 2007 8:33 PM

    Thank you Shawn.

    The issues Shawn listed are not the point.The point is, that we are allowing our elected officials to enslave us “for our own good”.

    Shawn was unafaid and took on “Little Joe’s” machine in a bid for a seat on Charleston City Council.

    He is a real American.I support him and hope he will run again.

  19. Patrick H. permalink
    January 29, 2007 8:37 PM

    Ms. Manteghi:

    If I found out that curry caused cancer and congestive heart failure, I would certainly not eat at an Indian restaurant. This goes back to the previous argument. If you don’t like the smoke, don’t give them your money.

    I hate cigarette smoke, so I try to support restaurants who voluntarily ban smoking. I let bars and restaurants who allow smoking know that I prefer to frequent smoke-free establishments.

  20. January 29, 2007 8:37 PM

    The issue of smoking in restaraunts is not the only example of our lost freedoms.

    Another example is private property rights. While the right to smoke is not guaranteed in the constitution, the right to own and enjoy private property is guaranteed. And yet as a society we have gradually begun to accept a limit to those rights in the name of personal financial security.

    We are so concerned about what our neighbor might do next door to our suburban home, that we are willing to allow government to exert tremendouse control over our property. We are so focused on the possibility that our property value may go down that we are blinded by the impact that government regulation has on the value of our property.

    Our founding fathers fought and died for the right to own property. We are sending soldiers to Iraq so that Iraqis will have that right as well. I think Captain Keller raises a valid point. Whether the issue is smoking in a restaraunt or private property rights, we as Americans have grown willing to accept less freedoms for increased security. Even the former Soviet Union recognizes that system as flawed.

    Thank you Captain Keller for your brave service. Perhaps your letter will motivate more Americans to take up the battle here at home over lost freedoms.

  21. January 29, 2007 9:54 PM

    Patrick H.,

    The curry analogy is dead-on, the issue is not about smoking or spices it is about liberty or the potential lack thereof.

    ~Jeffrey Sewell

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