Freedom is integral to our happiness. It can be far reaching like the freedom of expression or more mundane like the freedom to choose a preferred brand of beer. We experience some level of freedom everyday, and the ultimate freedom is holding opinions and beliefs without being punished. The absence of freedom is a source of frustration, anger and despair. That’s evident in the unfolding story of mankind and the struggles of many groups including women, children, minorities, workers, poor people, and gays and lesbians. The dream and struggle for freedom continues; not only around the world, but in our own backyard.
Just because we live in a free country doesn’t mean everyone feels the same level of protection.
They clearly don’t, and that’s something worth reflecting about as we acknowledge our nation’s birthday and the potential of our ideals.
Freedom has always been a rallying cry for antagonists. In ancient Greece during the Peloponnesian War, Athens and Sparta both stood for freedom. Freedom from the Athenians perspective meant greater participation by a larger number of citizens and trade agreements benefiting their economy.
The Spartans, who preferred rule by a smaller oligarchy, saw freedom as being free from the economic and political domination of Athens. The Spartans eventually won the epic struggle. They tore down the impressive walls surrounding Athens, but resisted calls from allies to execute the men and sell all the women and children into slavery. That was a common practice by freedom-loving people thousands of years ago. Sadly, hate and fear continues today. It even lives within the heart of decent folks who claim to be champions of freedom.
The famous Julius Caesar of ancient Rome directed the killing of more than a half a million people and the enslavement of another million people in his campaigns to “free” Gaul from its barbarian roots. Within a generation, many of the conquered survivors were treasuring their status as free Roman citizens. It’s a reminder that notions about freedom evolve with changing circumstances and the politics of power.
In the Civil War, freeing slaves was one of the objectives of the Union while the Confederate forces fought for freedom too; the freedom of their way of life. The Emancipation Proclamation asserted freedom for former slaves, but this noble idea was quickly overshadowed by Jim Crow laws and the partnership between elites in the industrial north and the agrarian south. The former slaves were free alright; free to live within a devious form of social and economic servitude.
Americans are constantly reminded that we are freer than everyone else in the world.
And while it’s true that anyone can make it to the top of the mountain here, we are not the happiest people or the most secure. On the contrary, many Americans are increasingly challenged to make ends meet and find dignity in a culture obsessed with silly things and trivial pursuits.
The never-ending threats to freedom—real and imagined—are a proven way for gaining sympathy, donations, votes, and other forms of support. You can see this in the debate about issues such as gun control, security, privacy, immigration, voting rights, state rights, and the role of government. The arguments are almost always framed as a threat to freedom.
Even in international politics, we observe our government supporting freedom-loving people as long as they are closely aligned with our economic and political interests. Good luck to everyone else.
Is freedom free in any society where the regard for the greater good is often discredited as socialism? Almost everyone embraces freedom as a concept, but the feeling of freedom largely depends on our social status. All of the great movements in history promoting individual rights have been vigorously opposed by powerful elites. Change only occurs when the oppressed achieve a tipping point of awareness and social acceptance. It’s a tipping point achieved with uncommon resolve and many sacrifices.
The freedom I long for is freedom from ignorance, hate, racism, abuse, and deceit in every form.
It’s the freedom of a complete accounting of our nation’s history including its less flattering chapters. It’s the freedom of a political system achieving its potential to get things done instead of constant sniping and painful inertia. It’s the freedom of an economic system that has basic tenants of fairness without political manipulation. And finally, it’s the freedom of believing that freedom matters; not just for us, but for everyone including people that don’t aspire to mimic us.
Our restrictive two-party political system and the practice of vulture capitalism have the potential to be a greater threat to freedom than any terrorist organization or rogue nation. All forms of oppression should be fought against with reason, determination and moral courage. That was the basis of our founding as a nation and it continues to be the precursor for positive change.
Randy owns Triple 3 Marketing. He’s a long term advocate for positive change, having owned community magazines since 1999. Randy sold Positive Change Media in April 2009 and took a year off before launching Triple 3 Marketing. In addition to helping business owners, he also provides private coaching. Randy has a masters degree in communication arts from the University of Wisconsin at Madison where he studied persuasion and attitude change. Contact Randy at email@example.com.