Freedom – What Does It Mean?

There has been so much said about freedom during the week following events at Charlottesville, VA.

As a writer, the First Amendment has always been something I hold particularly dear. The right to free speech and the right to assemble peacefully make the United States a special place. These rights make me feel proud to be an American citizen.

Free speech is powerful and there are groups like the alt-right whose right to free speech brings up discomfort for me. But they, nonetheless, have the right to share their views however repellant I and others may find those views.

But where do we draw the line? When do we say, “No?”

It has occurred to me that the concept of freedom has to apply to all of us or it applies to none of us. Whenever we say “Others must not be free in order for us to be free” we are in reality denying freedom to all.

I realize this can be a slippery slope when getting into specifics. For example, gun rights activists claim their freedom must include their right to bear arms.

Where I draw the line is between expression of an idea and acting on those ideas. We are allowed to express hatred and intolerance through words and other abstract symbols under the First Amendment.

But when we begin taking actions to do physical damage or restrict the rights of others we are now attacking their freedom.

I also believe any system or society that depends on denying some people freedom is fundamentally unsustainable. Such a society has to expend (usually increasing amounts of) time, money, and energy to promote one group at the expense of others. It may work for a while but it doesn’t work for long. It’s the reason I believe that by denying one group freedom, we ultimately deny everyone freedom.

When our lives become consumed by the requirements of keeping a few imprisoned don’t we, ourselves become imprisoned as well?

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