The freedom we celebrate today is a complicated idea that deserves thought and reflection. I hear the voices that ask me to reflect on the military cost of freedom. In any discussion of freedom is important to remember that the freedom we feel is directly tied to the efforts of those tasked to use force in order to stop those who would take our freedom by force. Knowing myself this reflection is fleeting. Yes, I will cry along with the YouTube video of a surprise military homecoming, but there is a good chance the awareness of this condition of my freedom will fade to the back of my mind until the next standing ovation at a baseball game.
Likewise there will be voices asking me to reflect on the real threats to our freedom. I sit idly by and watch the wealthy gain and hoard power creating a system in which money always has the final say. Money infiltrates our courts, our elections, our schools and the middle and lower class suffer as the people with all the money continue to write the rules that state having all the money is the ultimate trump card. Even this reflections fades away with the monotony of life and the scope of the problems. What can I really do to combat the growing power of the wealthiest Americans?
The reflection on freedom that matters most to me is the one that affects how I deal with my neighbors every day. I worry that we as Americans have become so accustom to our personal freedom that we have lost sight of what freedom really means. In my individual and narcissistic conceptualization of freedom it is easy to see that I, as the individual, should be allowed to do as I choose, free of restraint or influence. However, I have become so accustom to being able to dictate what happens in my life, the sneaky belief that I should be able to tell others what to do with their lives because it influences my life has taken hold.
We have forgotten that freedom, short of moving to the woods to live in isolation completely free of societal ties, is a communal effort for all of us. My freedom is directly tied to the freedom I afford everybody else. I am free to act as I choose only as much as I fight for that same right for everyone else. When I see someone make choices that are clearly terrible based on my life experience, it is easy to assume I should be allowed to tell them how to act. This is the true enemy of freedom, the desires to control others actions, while maintaining your right to act as you choose.
Real freedom is to fight for the right of your neighbor to make their own choices even if you disagree. Real freedom is defending the CHOICE to eat fast food every day and die of a heart attack at 40, to deal with the pain of an abortion in order to avoid the pain of raising your attacker’s child, to operate a business based on your values even if your values offend someone, to marry whomever you choose, and even to challenge the method your freedom is provided to you.