Saturday, July 4, 2015

On Freedom

This Independence Day, I've been thinking a lot about freedom. Freedom is an abstract concept and easy to twist to whatever your personal definition may be, but bear with me as I play with the definition to serve the purposes of this post.

Freedom is being free, right? If you are a free person, you can go do basically whatever you'd like today as long as it doesn't hurt anyone else. You probably have a few options of what to do today including barbecuing, watching Netflix, going on a walk, and watching fireworks later tonight. In the United States, certain freedoms are enumerated in Bill of Rights. We have freedom of religion, freedom of speech, freedom to petition government, freedom to assemble, and a number of other such freedoms that make America THE GREATEST COUNTRY ON EARTH.


I'm not going to argue that these freedoms do not exist--they most certainly do for most people--but I do want to remind the readership at large that not all of these freedoms apply to every person who ever lived in the USA. They do not even presently apply to plenty of people living here. Just because a freedom is supposed to be guaranteed by the governing body does not guarantee that life situations provide access to those freedoms.

WARNING: The remainder of the post below is depressing and/or cynical.

Victims of human trafficking walk your streets. They are seen as little more than objects. They are sex slaves. They were pulled into a life they didn't want by a family member, friend, significant other, or a stranger. These victims are "guaranteed" the same freedoms that I am but they do not have freedom.

Victims of domestic violence live in your neighborhoods. They try to put on a happy face but often are unaware of the resources in place to help them get away from their abusers. Men, women, and children can be victims of domestic violence. They too are "guaranteed" the same freedoms that I am but they do not have freedom.

Child brides are being married off to men they never met before, forced into adult relationships that they are unprepared for, mentally or physically. Maybe you think this doesn't happen in the US, but I promise you, it does. These youth also have freedoms, but I'd bet many of them don't feel free to choose not to move forward once the wedding date is set.

These are extreme examples, and maybe it's hard for you to consider. These are far away things unless you've met someone who has survived such a plight. If that's too depressing or too abstract, I have some more concrete examples.

People suffering from severe illnesses such as cancer, ALS, cystic fibrosis, Parkinson's disease, and other physical ailments have freedoms, but how many of them are free to get up do whatever they'd like to do today? How many of them can run outside?

People like myself who have infertility planned life differently. We expected to adjust our lives to have children in them by now. This has been taken from me for now, and even expensive treatment has not given me the thing I wanted.

LGBTQIA+ who have come out have been disowned by their families, some have been left homeless and end up trafficked. Those who have not come out may not feel like they can say the words out loud, even to themselves. 

Plenty of military are deployed across the globe today. Are they all celebrating their Independence Day? Maybe some of them won't even get to talk to their families today because their military duties keep them in high-risk situations without satellite phones or internet access.

People with crappy jobs but no experience to move to better pay in order to be able to take better care of themselves and their families have pretty limited options. Many of them are working today. Is that freedom?

You love your freedoms, and I love mine, but you know, deep down, that you have limits to your freedoms too. Maybe your only friend is a terrible person. Maybe the person you married has changed. Maybe you've been excommunicated from a church you loved. Maybe you have been guilted into things you didn't want to do. These are very minor things, but all of us have problems. How many of you really feel free?

The USA is my home, and I don't mean to disparage it. It's a free country, but I recognize that it has its limits. It can be a better place as we work harder to improve life for our citizens, but this takes work on our part. I suppose all I'm asking is that today, remember as you celebrate your freedoms that not everyone is free.