Freedom is Everyone’s Responsibility

Freedom is Everyone’s Responsibility July 4, 2019

“The future of American freedom rests on the shoulders of men and women willing to defend it . .” -Donald Trump

Donald Trump’s comments on the Fourth of July were mostly in praise of our military, a military Trump himself fled from, having himself declared unfit for service. Freedom for the fledgling United States might have been ultimately won via war, but it began at the Pennsylvania State House and was finished at the home of a brick mason. It’s telling that the Declaration of Independence was not signed on a battlefield.

“The Fourth of July, 1916” by Childe Hassam. From WikiMedia. (Detail)

Perhaps to a simple mind, American freedom begins and ends with guns, soldiers, tanks, and fighter jets. For those of us who think more deeply about what “freedom” actually means, such statements are deeply offensive.

My comments here are not meant to be disrespectful to our military. Certainly our armed forces do hard, often unappreciated work. They put their lives at risk in ways I can’t imagine. They also make tremendous sacrifices, spending months and years away from home, loved ones, spouses, and children. They are also underpaid for such work. Certainly our nation relies on the military for many things, but it’s just one component of a truly free nation.

I’m always surprised by how little politicians talk about teachers. Outside of my father, few people have had a bigger impact in my life. My teachers taught me how to write, how to think critically, and to appreciate the sacrifices of others. Without their dedication most of us would not be wherever it is that we are today. We certainly wouldn’t know how to articulate the idea of “freedom.”

Politicians do a much better job of talking about our first responders. Police officers, firefighters, EMTs, many of these individuals have sacrificed a great deal to keep our nation safe and secure. Not all of those individuals get everything right (“shot for being black or brown” needs to quit being a thing), but I’ve seen many police officers put themselves in the line of fire for others. We have freedom because our country is mostly safe, and the people who help keep it that way most often abide by certain rules.

American freedom depends on a free press, something Donald Trump does not quite comprehend. From the beginning the press has been “the fourth estate” reporting on government’s excesses, mistakes, and corruption. Losing a free press means a loss of freedom. It’s the first step towards a dictatorship or complete rule by oligarchy. The future of American freedom rests on the shoulders of those who teach it, write about it, and protect it.

Everyday there are tens of thousands of people who work on the frontlines fighting against the epidemics of homelessness and poverty. Sometimes they are social workers and sometimes they are community activists. Sometimes they are just random citizens giving someone a hot meal. The idea behind “American freedom” is that all people are worthy of dignity and respect, for those fighting to give dignity and respect to all Americans you have my thanks.

Freedom can only truly be achieved when we are free to protest our government. Dissent is patriotic. Dissent is what gave birth to the United States. To argue otherwise is either complete stupidity or willful ignorance. The day we can’t speak out against our own government is the daya any real possibility of universal freedom truly ends.

Turning our friends and neighbors into “the other” is not freedom. America, a nation built on immigration, now puts the children of asylum seekers in cages. To hear a President talk about “freedom” while being complicit in such actions should enrage anyone who cares about the idea of “freedom.” Cleary this President does not value it, for him freedom is simply a prop to be held up during a photo-op.

Freedom depends on a free electorate who can vote as they choose. And anyone who is disenfranchised as a voter through no fault of their own is being denied “American freedom.” That the denial of this freedom is epidemic in many of our communities right now speaks to just how little we need military parades and fake shows of patriotism. To hear someone praise “freedom” when they’ve done so much to try and stifle it might be funny if it weren’t so frightening, and happening to all of us right now.

Freedom is a shared responsibility. It does not rely only on guns and firepower. To obtain a truly free society we all have to contribute as best we can and stand tall in the face of oppression. Freedom requires everyone to sacrifice a little bit for the good of all. Freedom rests with you and me.

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