It seems today that Americans of all cultural, religious and political stripes struggle with the meaning of one word that defines our country. Freedom.
It seems simple enough. Go to a dictionary. In this case it’s Merriam/Webster’s oft-quoted tome defining words in the English language. Freedom, according to its editors, is:
1: The quality or state of being free: such as:
a. the absence of necessity, coercion, or constraint in choice or action;
b. liberation from slavery or restraint or from the power of another;
c. the quality or state of being exempt or released usually from something onerous; freedom from care.
Janis Joplin made it even easier to understand in her hit song “Bobby McGee.”
Freedom’s just another word for nothin’ left to lose
Nothin’, don’t mean nothin’ hon’ if it ain’t free
Unfortunately, many Americans look at “freedom” through the lens of their view of the world around them, not the literal, dictionary-defined meaning.
Freedom for many folks is shaped and applied to their lives by what they hear family and friends say about being free to live life as they see fit; what they consume from arbitrators of news and information in newspapers, magazines, radio and television broadcasts or, most likely today, from social media platforms.
Therein lies the rub as to why Americans today are battling each other over control of the country. The word — one simple but immensely emotional word — fuels the soul of everyone blessed and privileged to live in this country.
It’s hard for us to accept that our view of freedom should apply to all our brothers and sisters across the country. We can’t accept that all Americans hold freedom dear to their hearts. Why do some believe that living in America gives them the right to rip apart a fellow citizen’s patch of life?
If politicians today — particularly the current occupant of the White House — understood the true meaning of freedom there would be a strong chance that people from all walks of life would come together to fight systemic racism, battle the pandemic that has killed more than 130,000 Americans, and hammer out a new approach to law enforcement that protects and serves every community without fear or favor. We might create economic policies that encourage life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness for all, as suggested in the nation’s founding document, the Declaration of Independence.
What freedom means to you might not be the same as what it means to your mother, father, brother, sister, neighbor, friend. Understand that. Accept that. Let everyone live free without trying to force them to live by your definition of that special word.
It will be hard to do. Especially since our impeached president uses the word as a weapon, angrily and deceptively accusing people who don’t agree with his distorted and self-serving view of the country, or so-called infringements on the freedoms of people who voted for him in 2016.
The real threat to democracy is the man in the White House and his political enablers. The average citizen is at the mercy of people in power who view freedom as a word to be manipulated, weaponized and abused to maintain control of their position.
Freedom. It’s a simple word but one that is hard to accept its true meaning for the future well-being of our country.