I was listening to NPR broadcast, “Tracing President Lincoln’s Thoughts on Slavery” and became very interested in what he defined as freedom and how it is become interpreted today. As we see foreign governments lead by dictators and other forms of less than democratic governments being called into question as seen in Egypt, Libya and formerly Iraq we are reminded of our freedom and what it means to us and just how much we take it for granted.
In Lincoln’s day when they spoke of freeing the slaves they didn’t mean that they were allowed to vote or hold political office. They meant they had the freedom to make a living by working, that’s it. It seems very simple and meager by today’s standards but if we look at the world as a whole that is still something being fought over for hundreds of years. People want to know that an honest day’s work will reward them with some form of compensation and allow them to own property. That is the basic of freedom.
Our country was founded on the desire for religious freedom when the Pilgrims came to America. Later we fought the revolutionary war for freedom from taxation by the British government. And our last war on American soil was fought over a few things but one we often mention is the freedom of the slaves and of course money. The south knew if they freed the slaves their profit from cotton plantations would drop. So again, the issue of money becomes a major focus when we talk about freedom.
How many of us feel we are free to make money? Sure there are taxes on just about everything. And yes we can choose to not work and therefore not pay taxes. We are free to choose study and hope to attend college and then hope to land a great job of our choosing and we can make a profit. We aren’t being forced to do any of this against our own will. But this isn’t the freedom most people are looking for.
Most people want to have all these government programs and protection and not pay for them. Most people want everything to be fair and even. But what most people are describing is more like socialism than the democracy they think is the sign of freedom.
We are all able to work and do as we please but all of this comes at a price. We sacrifice a lot in the name of safety. We think the government should provide roads, street lights, healthcare, coast guard, freedom to fly, freedom to live our private lives, search the internet and to vote and know the next day the people leaving power with calmly step down.
There is so much we take for granted and we don’t even know how good we have it. People aren’t marching on Washington or burning down buildings because of Obamacare. We just take it to a vote and we go on with our lives because freedom here means we don’t even have to care. We can just wait a few years and vote for the next person to change all the laws.
I’m not writing this to make people angry, I just want people to see we are hundreds of years ahead of most nations in the understanding of freedom and we still want more. And that’s great. As long as we have it we can fight for it, just don’t take it for granted. Don’t turn your back on this country and say we are not free. We can make a living, educate ourselves and do more than most countries if we can put our desire into it. We can speak freely in the press, hold protest, run for office, have as many children as we want and then make a tv show about it. We have opportunites that the world can only imagine. That is freedom.