Posted by: chlost | September 24, 2010

Freedom

There have been two incidents that I have come across today that have raised the issue of freedom in my mind. These have made me think quite seriously of the nature of freedom and the hallmarks of a free society.

Earlier today, the candidate whom I have been working to reelect received a very nasty email. Apparently, a constituent of the opposite political party  received a mailing and felt compelled to send this candidate a very sarcastic message about the mailing. The mailing was actually sent by an independent group with no input from our campaign, as we have not sent out a mailing in the recent past.  That nuance was lost on the constituent.

The second incident occurred on a blog that I read fairly regularly.  The blogger posted a story which several readers found upsetting, and they felt compelled to cancel their subscription to the blog.

Freedom is a word that is used quite a bit here in the United States. In fact, most citizens would likely agree that freedom is important to them.  With the election just around the corner, politicians feel compelled to repeatedly reassure constituents that they support freedom.  It is the bedrock of our democracy.

The US was founded by people seeking freedom. Of course, these founders  did not really consider freedom to be a human right. Historically, it was a right reserved for white protestant Europeans. Other races, religions and cultures were deemed to be less than human. Over the course of our country’s history we have paid lip service to the expansion of the concept of freedom as a human right.

Recently, though, our society seems to have forgotten how hard it is to have true freedom.

True freedom means that people have the right to say things that others don’t like. It means that people have the right to practice a religion that many others don’t like. True freedom means that people have the right to do things that many other people find objectionable.

Majority does not rule.

True freedom means that the majority protects the right of the minority to have an opinion which differs from the majority. It means that the rights of some are equal to the rights of many.

This does not make for a pretty picture. It is not easy. A truly free society is messy. Dictatorships run smoothly-any opposition is disposed of quietly and efficiently. Kingdoms likewise are able to enforce its chosen political position. Theocracies outlaw other religions and beliefs in favor of the one “true” religion practiced by the  ruling belief system.

We claim to be a freedom-loving country. We should be celebrating the differences of the people within our society. A truly free society would be free of name-calling, hatred and violence between opposing belief systems.  Is that the way it feels in our current political climate? I don’t feel it.

If we truly are free, let’s fight for the rights of those with  whom we disagree. Let’s encourage the open discussion of differing opinions and ideas.

Respectfully.

Open to opposing positions.

Considerately.

Without yelling at each other.  

It may not feel comfortable and we may not always get our way. But that is part of a truly free society. From what has been happening recently it is apparent that we have not been up to the challenge and hard work required to be a free society.

Freedom-it ain’t for sissies.

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Responses

  1. I quite agree, but it is so hard.

    A couple of years ago I heard a military leader in Turkey talking about freedom and the religious leaders who wished to make Turkey a religious state. This military chap said that to be a free country then the ultra religious must be allowed so speak and canvas for votes. But that they did not have to speak the truth, and if they became elected, freedom would die. So, he said, that to ensure that freedom continued, he felt that the crusading sector of his society could not be allowed complete freedom of speech. Therein lies the paradox. So many people who benefit from freedom of speech ultimately wish to deny exactly that when they gain power. So what to do?

    A Christian friend of mine said one must continue to allow freedom of speech even when you knew it would be denied to you in return: that was what having principles meant, and sacrifice always wins out in the end.

    • I agree that it is a struggle. I can only hope that my grandchildren, or their grandchildren may be able to figure it out.

  2. I think the whole idea of civil discourse has gotten lost in the shuffle.

    • No question. It is a lost art, apparently.

  3. I have traveled a lot. I do not think people in this country are totally free. Many people here believe they are, but they are controlled by large corporations. People are free here to be poor and die without health insurance. I just came back from Norway. People pay more taxes but they get free education, free health care and even housewives get a retirement pension. I did not see any panhandlers in Oslo or homeless people like in New York. On top of that their life expectancy is higher than here and their quality of life is much better. Last year in Canada a young man talked to us for a while to show us how much better his life was there. So why people here keep thinking this is such a great country? I think it has the potential to be a great country but it needs to improve. The gap between the rich and poor in the US is the highest between western nations and it’s not getting better, to the contrary. Freedom is just a word – real life in the US does not show it.

    • I agree wholeheartedly. There is a saying here that freedom includes the freedom to fail. But I think that saying is used primarily by successful people. I cannot see how making sure that the most vulnerable have medical care, a safe place to live and food to eat makes us less free. I would love to live in Europe to compare.


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