FREEDOM – AN ELUSIVE IDEAL
Freedom is truly an elusive ideal. On the surface it seems like such a simple concept. You would think it was the same for everyone, easily definable and something that we could all agree upon. And yet, sad to say, that is not the case within our society today, and it is not getting better. It is getting worse, much worse. We all take for granted that we are all on the same page, that we believe the same things, and have the same expectations. Nothing could be further from the truth.
Freedom is a personal right. We hold this truth to be self-evident. We believe that everyone has the right to be free. Or so we say. But what do we really think?
Some people feel that freedom means they have the right to do anything they wish to do. But it is not quite so simple. You SHOULD have the capability to do whatever you please. But reality demands from us a number of caveats. It needs to be within reason, but the question immediately begs to be asked. Whose reason? And your right should be inviolate. But if we posit that concept, that no one can interfere with your personal right to freedom that immediately brings us to the question of what happens when your freedom of action infringes on the same inviolable rights of another? That is the true crux of the problem. That is the dilemma that presents itself as you demand your own personal brand of freedom.
If you go deep into the woods, or the top of some isolated mountain, and wish to run around naked and screaming at the top of your lungs, it would seem you have that right. WITHIN REASON, even in your own backyard, provided you have enough space and privacy. But to do the same thing in a crowded public park or in MY backyard, without MY permission, it would be, and should be, completely unacceptable and inappropriate. Why? Because I have those same rights you have, and you are taking mine away from me with your actions. Is there anything here that you would wish to criticize? Is this, at least, something that we could agree upon?
And yet, when people peaceably speak or protest, why do we condone the actions of demonstrators, who, yes, are there to exhibit their own version of Freedom of Speech, and make their positions known, but at the expense of the rights of those original, peaceful protesters. It is IRRELEVANT as to what was the content of the original speech. If they are White Supremacists or Neo-Nazis, it is easy to understand the frustration. But are these people not Americans? Maybe just not their kind of Americans? And ultimately, what does that say about the protesters views on Tolerance and Diversity. You can exhibit Tolerance and Diversity only when dealing with people that you would not normally be inclined to interact with, not when they are your compatriots and are in full agreement with your positions. The word hypocrisy sneaks into my thoughts. But what happens when there are individuals that are simply Pro-Life or someone with Conservative positions? Are they not Americans as well? Do they not enjoy the freedom to speak? The demonstrators erode their own freedom as they destroy the rights of others. Are they that insecure and unsure of their positions that they need to use force to get their point across? Freedom of Speech is a relatively simple concept. I petition for a venue, or better yet rent a hall and let people know that I have something to say. They come, and I try to explain my position. I may or may not offer a time for questions. In any case, my right, my time, my money and my speech. If you have a rebuttal and I do not offer you a time and a place to do so, then you have the right to petition for your own venue, or better yet rent your own space and invite your own adherents, and invite the media or anyone else you so choose. What could be simpler than that? Why do you have to be there at the same time and disrupt their right to speech? And this holds true for political rallies and marketing and so many more aspects of our country that every day are being disrupted by people who do not really believe in the rights and freedoms we all take for granted. If they set up their own rally, would anyone come? Would anyone care? If so, what is wrong with that alternative? Why is it necessary to PREVENT those other individuals from exercising the exact same right you demand for yourself? Our society is today up in arms about bullying. In the schools and on the internet. To the extent that people are being convicted of manslaughter because of the use of words. Words that we should all have the right to use. If what these demonstrators do is not the epitome of bullying, then I do not know what is. These people need to put aside their blind hatred to work towards their goals with other alternatives. We can actually agree with much of what they profess to believe, but never condone the way they implement the means to their end. While an end can be justified, the means to those ends must always be valid and appropriate, not to mention moral and legal, to have true legitimacy for the struggle for justice and peace. Their way is without equivocation, the wrong way.
We touched on the Freedom of Speech today, and there are uncountable other instances that demand attention, and at some point in time, we will do so. But let us for now think about the idea of freedom. There is no more appropriate goal for anyone to espouse. And yet, it needs to be tempered with consideration and fairness for all involved, no matter their thoughts or backgrounds. We unfortunately possess many various flavors of haters in our society, but those that hate the haters are little better, if not worse, for if you have experienced hatred against you in life, who better to understand, and show compassion, than those very same people, instead of looking for revenge and retribution, pain and destruction, and inevitably, just continued conflict. There is no victory on the horizon. Only more misery and suffering, and the continuation of the struggle for true freedom. The problem is not with the protesters, or the counter demonstrators. Not with Pro-Americans and Anti-Americans. The fundamental problem, the everlasting conflict, is with hatred and ignorance. Nothing new there. But we cannot defeat such an enemy with protests, and bottles and bricks. Violence is not the answer. Bull horns and chanting and one-liners will never solve the issue. And our media, and especially our late night talk show hosts, will certainly never bring about change. And our representatives, timid and fearful of their own self-interests, seem to be more of a hindrance than a path to resolution. And regrettably, even you, and others in our streets and offices across the land, fearful of exacting derision and criticism, refuse to stand up for what you know, deep down inside, is the only way to resolution of our problems. Empathy. Compassion. Consideration. Not for those that agree with you but expressly for those who do not. There is only a single path to change. And that is the power of your minds. The power of thought. Your intellect. Through the use of philosophy, and the answers that can only be found there.
There needs to be a Conversation in this country. People use the word often, but they do not want to discuss and debate, but only to be heard. We need a true Conversation. And together with that Conversation, thoughtful and reasoned Contemplation, to reflect on all the information we can gather, to arrive at options and alternatives to the way we have all done things in the past. And finally, search for a level of Comprehension, where understanding opens doors and resolution to the conflict none of us need at all, and I have to believe, few of us wish to have continue. For our own sakes, and that of those that will follow. Our friends and our children deserve a better future, and as we speak that future is being stolen from all of us, and there should never be a freedom to do that.
Whatever form your Path may take, it doesn’t matter. Just get on the bus, and do something that you know in your heart is right. Be a person of integrity and ethical behavior. A person of understanding and justice. Free from fear and honest to yourself. Show the world what true freedom is all about. Dare to make a difference.