Wednesday, July 06, 2005

I Am Free

We seem to have forgotten an essential aspect of our freedom. We speak of freedoms lost or gained. We fear for how much we will be able to leave for our children. We keep agitating for more freedom and protest our governments when they try to take it away from us.

It is right that we do so. These are important concerns and necessary actions. But they ignore the most essential aspect of our freedom, and losing that would be the greatest shame of all.

Freedom is not something we petition governments to receive. Freedom is our birthright. You have your freedom simply because you are. Freedom is our natural state and we always retain possession of it.

I am free. I don’t care what anybody else says. I was born free, I am free, and I will die free. I am free right now, and the next time somebody asks, I’ll be free then too.

All life is choice. Yes, there are many authorities in your life telling you what they want you to do. Many of them are loving and wise and quite often it would be in your best interests to listen to them. Most appear to be much larger and more powerful than ourselves, whether they be parents, churches, governments, whatever.

But you always are the one who must decide who or what to follow, and who or what to reject. You must choose. No one else can choose for you.

Everyone must use whatever resources they can muster, physical, mental and spiritual, to enable their own choices. Each individual has to do it on their own. They often ask for help, and help given and received is a beautiful thing. But no matter how involved others become in your life, it is still your life.

We are all free, each one of us, all the time.

The music of the civil rights era provides a great lesson. The voices of that black gospel are so strong, so sure of themselves, so joyous. I had to ask myself, how can they be so darn happy when they are singing about being attacked by dogs and water hoses and then thrown into Birmingham jail? It’s because they never forgot the most essential aspect of freedom. I am free!

What do we say today to those who would oppress us and keep us separate? What do we tell them about our freedom?

What do we say about the Supreme Court telling us that anybody can get your local government to take your home for any reason they fancy? We say that my property is mine. If I own something it’s because I earned it, I paid the price for it, and I’m not inclined to just give it to you. That’s your greater social good right there. I am free.

What do we say about every level of government always wanting to increase our taxes? We say that it’s my money. I earned it, and I will decide what I will spend my money on, thank you very much. If you have something worthwhile to offer I’ll be happy to buy it from you, but it’s still my money. I am free.

What do we say about the national ID card? We say, I am not a number, I am a free man. I will do what I please and go where I want to go. I really don’t want anyone cataloging my every move, especially not you. I am free.

What do we say about all these wars fought in our name? We say this is not my war. The Iraqi people or the Afghani people or the Iranian people or any other people I can think of have never done anything to me. I love my country because of its freedom, not because it’s the biggest bully on the planet. I am an American and I am free.

We weren’t put on this planet to fight each other. Those who would oppress us, those who have this mistaken notion that somehow they can limit or take away our freedom, have to keep us separate to succeed. They need us fighting each other, whether its Americans and Iraqis, or blacks and whites, or citizens and immigrants, or men and women or whatever.

We were put on this planet to be free. When we take possession of our own freedom, we understand and accept that this is the birthright of every human being, to be free just like me. When we assert our freedom, we command respect. The more people there are in this world claiming their freedom, the more obvious it becomes that in order to get my freedom, I have to let you be free too.

We weren’t put on this planet separately. We were brought here together. We arrived here free. We do not have to fight anyone for our freedom. We just need to accept the gift.

As the old gospel song says, I am on my way to Freedom Land. There is nothing you can do to stop me. Your slavery won’t stop me, your dogs and water hoses, your profiling, your SWAT teams busting down my door, your eminent domain, your taxes, your jail, none of that will stop me. I am free.

Nothing can stop a free people. Over and over we see governments fall just because the people filled the streets and said they have had enough. Just in the first half of this year alone we have witnessed three people power revolutions in Asia and seen a government collapse in South America. All because the people chose something other than what the government was offering them. All because they had the guts to proclaim that they were free.

So yes, let’s protest and petition and negotiate with all those who would force their choices upon us. But know this, the very thing they fear the most is your freedom, and they cannot take it away from you. They know that nothing can stop a free people.

Human progress only happens when we are free. Free to produce, free to create, free to make our dreams reality. Everyone already know this. And yet, we seem to be on the verge of forgetting it.

A free people begins with one woman or one man. You. Me. I say we proclaim our birthright of freedom and move forward together. Don’t forget your freedom, don’t feel like you have to go get it from something or someone else. It is time to remind those who think they can grant or withhold our freedom that they are mistaken, for we have retained all of our freedom all along.

I am free.


Anonymous Tim West said...

We should be free, but in reality, we are not. The absence of all cooperation with others and the ability to not have to interact with anyone else, would make you free in the sense that there was no coercion in your life.

But neither would your life be rewarding. You would be alone, and unable to breach your perfect freedom without compromising it in some manner. This is the limit of negative liberty.

Real freedom can only be obtained by juggling negative and positive freedom in such a manner that makes life both free and rewarding. The second you have compromised with your wife or your boss over something, Sean, you have chosen against the most purist expression of negative liberty. And there's nothing wrong with that! It's what makes us able to survive and thrive.

A life lived without a certain amount of what I call 'cooperative coercion' is a lonely life not lived to the fullest. It's in our human relationships that we both get the most out of and we have to compromise the most to get.

I hope someday you and I really will be free.

2:18 AM  
Blogger Sean Haugh said...

Ah, but freedom would be meaningless without having to make choices. Action would be meaningless without consequences.

9:05 AM  
Blogger Eugene said...

Exactly how does one exercise these freedoms of which you spoke? The town council decides to put a mini-mart where my house is. What can I do? Complain? Protest? Fight them off with my guns?

I don't want to pay for these wars (Iraqi, Afghany, Drug, Poverty, etc). How do I keep the government from taking that which I've earned for their use?

Sure, I can vote for other candidates who say they'll do what's in my interest, but even if they get elected, I am still at their mercy as they can change their minds at anytime. Broken political promises are more numerous than grains of sand.

I'm not trying to argue with you; I'd just love to know how I can go about exercising my freedoms.

11:54 AM  
Blogger Sean Haugh said...

Eugene, yes, yes, and yes.

Freedom isn't easy, precisely because so many want to take it from you. It's all about choices, about how much you will let others take from you and how much you will voluntarily give to others. The kind of freedom I am talking about, and indeed the only kind that really matters, is of a mental or spiritual nature, not a physical one.

Or, in the more direct phrasing by Suicidal Tendencies, "Well you can put a bullet in my head, but you can't kill a word I've said."

If you want a less morbid illustration, try Funkadelic's famous dictum, "free your mind and your ass will follow."

2:20 AM  

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