When we pulled into a parking lot of a local restaurant, a friend saw the following bumper sticker on a car:
"Freedom is not free."
She asked me what it meant -- she truly didn't get it. I told her it meant "FREEDOM COST MONEY, FREEDOM NOT COST-NONE."
That led me to think about what the bumper sticker is really telling us. America is the land of the free and the home of the brave. Thousands, if not hundreds of thousands, or even millions, yearn to emigrate to our good ole U.S. of America every year. Why? They want a better life, and more than that, they want freedom.
Freedom from what, though?
FREEDOM FROM RELIGIOUS PERSECUTION
While religious persecution is not as overt here as it is in other countries, there are some muted instances of what I like to term "dogmatic criticism," when congregations split from their parent church because they don't like the changes that are happening. Since the ordination of Gene Robinson, several parishes have split from the Episcopal church because they don't agree with having a gay bishop. The most recent news comes out of Colorado, and can be found here: Congregation to split from Episcopal Church. Now, it's true that congregations have the right to do what they want to do, but the fact remains that religious persecution still exists to a degree here in America. Rather than Catholicism or Judaism or Islam or a sect within each global religion being persecuted, religious leaders and the parishioners are DOING the persecuting and discrimination against others. Hmmm. Interesting.
FREEDOM FROM DOMINANCE
Now, I'm not going to delve into philosophy here and hark back to the great philosophers of the day. Apologies to those of you fascinated by philosophy. :) What I will say, though, is that our general ability to follow our free will and do what we want to do has largely become governed by "Big Brother," especially in the last several years. I can cite a large number of petty Big Brother projects, like red light and speeding cameras, but the abortion issue is paramount to me.
I am a woman. I believe in a woman's right to choose to have an abortion, ESPECIALLY when her own life is at stake, or if the pregnancy was forced. By forced, I mean if the woman was taken against her will and raped. If that rape results in a pregnancy, then the baby is a result of lack of free will on the mother's part. Should we not allow these people to make their own decision when they can, rather than the government telling them, "I'm sorry you were raped, but since we made abortion illegal, you need to keep your baby. Now after 9 months of pregnancy and labor, you can go ahead and give up your kid for adoption. Is that really fair to the fetus? I don't think so, but that's just me.
I would never condone abortion just because someone got drunk, had sex, forgot to use a condom, and woke up pregnant. I would, however, respect the person for making a decision that was in the best interest of all parties involved. If that entails abortion, so be it.
Lately, the tide has been turning to make abortion illegal once again. I feel like crying out that of all the "bans" the federal and state governments have, the abortion issue so clearly shows that we're losing free will to the government, which is largely made up of white, middle-class males. Big Brother, indeed.
FREEDOM FROM CENSORSHIP
We can all say what we [insert adjectival word here] want to say. We can say it nicely. We can throw in a bunch of expletives. We can be brusque, charming, rude, boring, flattering, cute, monotonous, repetitive... and it doesn't matter. The only thing we cannot do is knowingly slander someone else's name. There are people who take great pains to make sure their information is accurate and supported by more than one source. I call them journalists. Whether they are paid by the Washington Post or New York Times or fellow bloggers just wanting to educate their readers, these people set the bar and exemplify why it is so important for us all to celebrate free speech.
However, there are those who do not uphold journalistic or even general ethical standards and do come very close to committing libel or slander in their blog entries. Readers can whine and moan and bitch -- and they have the right to do that, thanks to our free speech law. With free speech comes responsibility, and as bloggers and readers, we all have a responsibility to strive for ethical practices and have respect for one another.
I'm sure our founding fathers, those great men who wrote our Bill of Rights and the rest of the Constitution never dreamed of a day where we would be typing away on machines that could broadcast to the world in a nanosecond just exactly what we think about something or someone. With immediate technology in our hands (literally), it becomes more and more important with each passing day to take a step back, reread what we've written, and make sure it's respectful, appropriate, and worthy of being wirelessly sent out into cyberspace.
FREEDOM IS NOT FREE
I promise I have a point. We have the freedom to do all these things, and sometimes we're restricted for our own individual health and safety. But we wouldn't have any of those freedoms if it were not for the revolutionaries who defeated the British Redcoats. Those people did not want to pay taxes to a British Empire who did nothing for them. We all bitch and moan every April about paying taxes to not only our federal government, but our state and local governments as well. We pay sales taxes on goods. We pay property taxes. Even our Sidekick and Blackberry (and Treo, etc.) bills have taxes. But y'know what? Even though I bitch that our freedoms are not free, I'm glad we have them.
- I'm glad I'm not a female who cannot go to college.
- I'm glad I'm a woman who can wear what I want to wear.
- I'm glad I'm a deaf person who has a license to drive.
- I'm glad I can choose my own life partner, rather than going into an arranged marriage.
- I'm glad it's relatively simple for me to obtain a passport and go nearly anywhere in the world.
- I'm glad I can choose whether to follow my religion or not.
- I'm glad my friends can choose to convert from one religion to another without persecution (not counting the questions people have along the lines of "why would you do that???").
- I'm glad my friends can go into a gay bar without fear of government and police officials rushing to arrest them for sexual deviance and threatening to slice their heads off.
- I'm glad I can stay out as late as I want, without a government or military-imposed curfew dictating me to be home before dark.
- I'm glad I can write this blog without fear of being shut down because I disagree with our government.
Freedom may not be free, but I think the cost is pretty darn minimal.
EDITED TO ADD:
A commenter alerted me to the fact that the "freedom is not free" slogan actually means that we earn our freedoms (and freedoms of others) through blood. (Thanks DeafPundit!) If you think about the wars that the U.S. has engaged in in the last half century, our soldiers were fighting overseas in order to liberate others from oppression. They were not fighting to liberate Americans. Prior to that, though, we fought for our own freedoms -- against the British. Against the Mexicans. Against each other (had I grown up in the mid-19th century, I would have lived in a secession state). The South fought not for propagating slavery, but for the right to secede from the Union. Then we fought in WWI because we were/are a major player in world affairs. Our own security was threatened in 1941, and we entered into WWII.
And now? We're sending our soldiers overseas trying to fight terrorism, but also to fight the Iraqis so that Iraqis can have a democratic government. Seems kinda ironic, don'tcha think?
Okay, this blog is now officially ended. :)