Freedom by definition: the state of being free or at liberty rather than in confinement or under physical restraint; another definition states that you can say or do anything you want. Synonyms: autonomy, independence, independency.
In a civil society, freedom can’t possibly mean you can do anything you want! We must engage in civil discourse and agree on certain general rules that everyone obeys, like stopping at red lights and, wearing clothes when you go out to public places. We even take many things for granted as just general politeness or civility, including the peaceful transition of power from one President to another. Even that is being disregarded at the moment. Where is civility?
In our Constitution’s first amendment, it addresses the freedoms we aspire to in the United States: protecting the freedom of speech, religion and the press. It also protects the right to peaceful protest and to petition the government. In my opinion, the Bill of Rights needs to be expanded to include basic rights for human needs.
When we use the term freedom, it can be used as something we want the freedom to do, or not to do. Some of the freedoms I would include ‘to do’ could be contained in a general bill of rights. It would state that ALL citizens in a country would have the freedom to (don’t currently enjoy in the USA), have basic life services (much like the Maslow hierarchy that Maslow) including food, housing, education and health care. Many more conservative would disagree and say that those are merely privileges. I disagree wholeheartedly! This so-called richest nation on earth should be able to provide people with the basics for a decent healthy life. After all we provided the rich with big tax breaks. Having the necessities then allows individuals to be creative and to work harder for the extra pleasures of life as well as contributing fruitfully to our society without worrying where their next meal is coming from. The countries that guarantee those basic needs, I would posit, have happier citizens, and a better society. Aren’t food and healthcare part of the term ‘life’ in ‘life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness?’
Those with libertarian beliefs, would say that we should have freedom from government, maybe as going as far as to only provide military protection. I would insist that the government is there for us to provide help and guidance to our society including ensuring our basic needs, along with protecting us from enemies. The government should be involved for the benefit of the whole, like providing Medicare and Social Security, police and fire departments, roads and bridges that we all use and enjoy (yes those are socialistic practices). If the basics are provided, then other safety nets would not be as necessary. Remember, the aforementioned programs have only been in place for less than 100 years, and have helped people a great deal, especially when the economy was in a downturn, which it currently is (probably even more so than we know). A universal health care system would benefit everyone. Maybe you wouldn’t catch a bug from someone who can’t afford to get treatment? No one would go bankrupt over expenses for their care or be afraid to seek medical treatment. Isn’t medical care also part of ‘life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness?’ You can’t pursue happiness if you are homeless or ill.
Over my life of many years, I considered myself patriotic. I have always loved celebrating our nation’s birthday, and using the words liberty and freedom. As children, we often dressed up on the 4th of July like Betsy Ross and Uncle Sam and portrayed historic scenes for guests in our home. Also, I have enjoyed attending the speeches of Thomas Jefferson (played by local man in full attire), loved playing patriotic music, putting out my flag on certain holidays, and decorating my home in red, white in blue.
Yet over the last four years, I feel my patriotism and the word freedom has been usurped and stolen by the far-right conservatives. They claim to be the only true patriots and wave their flags in their protests and marches. That is not the case! You don’t need to wrap yourself in a flag to be patriotic! There are many ways you can show your freedom and patriotism without visual aids.
We all have the same rights…freedom of speech and assembly, and many of us have different viewpoints, but lately it’s become more divisive and the flag has taken on a new meaning. Some act like it their own flag, and that they are the only ones who care about freedom. In what way? Freedom to act foolishly and not wear a mask? Freedom to infect others, and possibly to kill them? Now, when I see someone with a flag on their truck or home, I am quick to believe it is someone who is conservative. It should not be a flag for one party or group. It is not theirs to take! It belongs to our country, not to one group of people!
Over the past 20 years, I have hosted many young men and women from over a dozen countries and I was always proud of our city and country. I welcomed them and was proud to share our beliefs, our culture, our food, and my home. Last year when I hosted, I no longer felt proud of our country. I was embarrassed that we have so much division, that some policies are so harmful to groups of people, especially immigrants. And locking children in cages is the worst ever! I was relieved this year, due to covid, that I didn’t have to host and be embarrassed by our country’s behaviors and policies!
This past administration made it their goal to decimate the current government structure and they did a great deal of damage in not filling positions, and in diminishing agencies and regulations. In fact, Steve Bannon, stated their outlook in 2017, that they promoted the “deconstruction of the administrative state.” Let’s take a moment to break that down, because while it sounds like bureaucratic nonsense, it’s actually a serious threat. The Washington Post‘s Philip Rucker defines this as all of the taxes, regulations, and international trading deals, which people like Bannon believe threaten national and personal sovereignty. “
One of their top goals was to abandon many regulations so that their cronies who owned businesses could flourish without common constraints. Regulations aren’t harmful; they are instead helpful to those of us who want to have clean air, water and safe products. They are necessary, as most companies will cut corners if they get the chance; many have polluted our waterways and air. They don’t have the freedom to contaminate our environment!
This antigovernmental talk did not just begin with the recent administration; it started with Reagan, where many bad policies were initiated. In his 1981 inaugural address he stated that “government is not the solution to our problem, government is the problem.” That sentiment has only grown and continued in action and rhetoric. Wouldn’t it be great if the government actually had a plan during covid times, one that was national, that could have prevented thousands from their untimely deaths? This is exactly the kind of thing the government should be there for to help us. State governments have been left to make individual decisions, and since we are so mobile, that just doesn’t work in a pandemic. What if we didn’t even have the state governments to mandate masks and try to slow down Covid’s progression?
When will people wake up and realize we are in this life to work together. We are a nation, we are on a planet, and we are caretakers of it and of one another. Freedom should mean that we are free to help one another, and to protect each other by wearing masks, and give those struggling a hand up. It doesn’t mean we have the freedom to infect someone by not following the guidelines. That is just selfish! Freedom should not be about just yourself and your wishes. None of us love wearing masks (well I do, only when it’s cold outside).
Perhaps we need to develop some new words for freedom, some new symbols other than our flag, but first we have to get our country through this crisis and the huge mess that this administration has left behind to clean up. We must band together, or we will all perish, along with our democracy. Will we continue to enjoy the freedom to enjoy this ‘great experiment’ fully?