do you understand freedom?
|“Free at last! Free at last! Free at last!”
Those legendary words spoken by the Rev. Martin Luther King in August of 1963 turned out to be much more than just a speech. In fact, it was a battle cry for freedom across the country. And we have been looking for it ever since. These are facts that many people have been crying for a long time.
Women fought for the right to vote, which is a type of freedom. The African Americans have been fighting for freedom of oppression, which is another type of it. This list could go on and on without a real end ever coming in sight, can’t it? I mean everybody wants it, but do they really know what it means? That’s a big question, it seems simple, but, it is not.
So, what is it? What is freedom? Do you really know? Freedom as defined by Merriam Webster as the quality or state of being free, such as:
• the absence of necessity, coercion, or constraint in choice or action.
• liberation from slavery or from the power of another.
• boldness of conception or execution.
• a political right.
That’s the simple part. That is cut and dry. It is fact. But it is much more than that. It is a living, breathing, growing entity all in and of itself. It has to be fed, attended to, talked to, raised correctly, or else it dies a very gruesome and bloody death.
So now I turn to you, how do you define freedom. Not in the textbook way but inside yourself? What does your heart say about it? I know that the things we have known all our lives can be changed, right and wrong are on a moveable scale, based on your point of view. That is my opinion, you don’t have to share it, but I happen to believe that deep inside me.
Did you know, for instance, that there are two types of freedom? If you didn’t, you do now. One is the freedom from something. While the other is the freedom to something. Let me explain further if you will.
Let’s look at the ‘freedom from’ idea first. This idea can be and is found in our Constitution of the United States of America. Where it states that “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press, or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.” In other words, this is freedom from oppression, right?
In American history, we have several good examples of this idea, “freedom from slavery”, “freedom from want”, and “freedom from fear”. There are other examples I could name but I chose those particularly as they, I feel are the most important ones we have.
The freedom from slavery doesn’t only apply to the ‘slave and master’ situation of the civil war, but it also applies to indentured servants, which are not slaves, per se, however, it is a type of slavery. That one is self-explanatory.
But what about the freedom of fear and want? Do you understand those as well? Well, the past president Teddy Roosevelt formulated freedom from fear as follows: "The fourth is freedom from fear, which, translated into world terms, means a worldwide reduction of armaments to such a point and in such a thorough fashion that no nation will be in a position to commit an act of physical aggression against any neighbor—anywhere in the world.”
But to really understand this concept one must understand what fear is. According to FDR in his first inaugural address said that fear is” So, first, let me assert my firm belief that the only thing we must fear is...fear itself — nameless, unreasoning, unjustified terror which paralyzes needed efforts to convert retreat into advance.” Or in other words, fear can cripple us, but we, as a nation, have nothing to fear.
A rather important document called ‘The Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which is a United Nations declaration, says that “freedom from fear and want has been proclaimed as the highest aspiration of the common people.”
This brings us to fear of want. What is this? You have heard of this one, right? Not. Well, we all know, at times we all have wanted. Good jobs, flourishing relationships, and good health are some of the wants we have within all of us as humans, not just Americans, but humans as we are humans first before we are Americans, Canadians, Mexicans, or any other nationality.
FDR’s speech I referred to earlier, was written just as America was coming out of the great depression of the 1920s. People wanted a lot; they needed a lot. But let me be clear here. Freedom from want is not only about possessions, or money, or any other material thing one could possess. No, it is surely much more than that, much more.
It is laced into and out of American life for a long time. It is in writings, paintings, and other things we look at. For example, Normal Rockwell has a painting by that very name. Have you seen it? It shows a family sitting around a family table, it looks like it is a dinner table together. Everyone has a smile on their face and food on the table for everyone. This is a perfect example of freedom from want, which is why it is called by that very name. Who doesn’t want that to be just like that each day of their lives? I know I do.
I’m going to switch gears on you folks now, and I’m going to jump over to the ‘Freedom to’ side of things. This is the one most people know very, very well. This one is the one freedom that shapes our view of politics in both good and not-so-good ways.
This is the concept that codified the ‘Bill of Rights and created the free press, the court system, and an open society that aspires to have an atmosphere of fairness and understanding in our society today.
But as with all freedom, this can go too far as well and can threaten a lot more than just the health and safety of people. While I am for my second amendment right to bear arms, which is a perfect example of things going too far.
All too often I see the distinction between the ‘freedom to’ believers and the ‘freedom for’ believers. The ‘to’ often believe that the ‘from’ is impeding on people's individual liberty. This is what happens when the checks and balances that are in place to protect such liberties from the infighting and diseases that can occur within them are seen as a public menace instead of what they were meant to be.
I can assure you this is not the first time this monster raised its ugly and unwanted head. Yes, it has happened before, and will at some time happen again. It is inevitable, no real way to stop it. However back in the year 1789, Edward Burke made a statement about this in a letter he wrote.
He said: “The liberty I mean is social freedom. It is that state of things in which liberty is secured by the equality of restraint. A constitution of things in which the liberty of no one man, and nobody of men, and no number of men, can find means to trespass on the liberty of any person, or any description of persons, in the society. This kind of liberty is, indeed, but another name for justice; ascertained by wise laws and secured by well-constructed institutions.”
I believe that the key phrase here is when he said “The equality of restraint…” No doubt he was speaking about things put in place to assure that people’s liberty and freedom are not hindered, nor their rights trampled on. Furthermore, it also tells the truth that the ‘to’ thinkers could not exist without the ‘from’ thinkers. Moreover, it is important to note that both are needed to make society, especially our society a better place to live.
If you are reading this, you might have just picked up a basic thing that is quite necessary for things to go well. Can you guess what it is?
If not, don’t fret, I’ll tell you. In fact, the arguments for the ‘to’ and ‘from’ sides of the equation are equally valid and necessary for the existence of the other. The realization that this is indeed true is enlightening as well that it brings about a recalibration of that age-old conversation were having a healthy life, or freedom from a disease needs to really is a core aspirational freedom that should be put in as an equal to the ‘freedom to’ camp within the confines of this conversation.
The true contemporary human rights doctrine speaks of a core value and is quite clear on this issue when it said that “There is no hierarchy of human rights such that civil rights take precedence over economic and social rights; all human rights are interrelated and essential for human flourishing. That is in part our responsibility as a school of public health; to create the space for that conversation in our community—locally, nationally, and globally.”
So, you see that freedom, while it is a simple term, has deep meanings that can and do stretch to the very center of our society. I did truly hope you further understand what freedom is. Yes, it is more than signing up to put on a uniform, of any kind. It is more than plain civil rights, but it is a deep-thinking idea that surpasses all petty things in life, and I believe for this country to step forward into the future, pursue the blessings of liberty, and have prosperity throughout the entirety of the globe we must understand what we truly are fighting for, not necessarily for everyone else, but within yourselves the most.
Thank you for your time and attention