Brief reflections on American liberty

For those who were born and raised under the stars and stripes, freedom is as natural as the sky being blue and the grass being green. It is the normal state of being for Americans so much so that it is sometimes difficult to comprehend that it does not have to be this way. For one who knows nothing but freedom and has existed in that state his entire life, he sometimes is lulled into complacency. In other words, the liberty that exists in the United States while enjoyed in every facet of our lives can so easily be taken for granted because we have never lived without it and God willing, never will. Let us take a moment to appreciate the freedom this country affords to us via our institutions, our military and the good Lord.

                For one thing, that this article is being read is a tremendous expression of liberty. Our country has always enjoyed the benefits of a free press as enshrined in the first amendment. Regardless of how much the president criticizes certain media outlets, the fact remains that action is not being taken against them. Around the world, that is not the case. In Turkey, journalists are jailed by the dozen for alleged involvement in anti-government activity. In Russia, more journalists languish in prisons than at any time since the days of the Soviet Union. Throughout Eastern Europe and Asia, the story is the same. Repressions of the press are ramping up in Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, Azerbaijan, Belarus and Tajikistan among others. Reading this article, turning on the TV and flipping to the news, going on the internet and reading commentary from angle imaginable as one can so easily in America is far from a universal freedom around the world.

              If there happens to be a demonstration near where a man lives, he can join it or counter protest it with great ease. Minor regulations in the way of permits to promote public safety and police on scene for the same purpose aside, no one stands in his way of expressing himself. Much like the freedom of the press, the right of free speech is not respected by all governments. In the lead up to the anniversary of the bloody Tiananmen Square massacre, the Chinese arrested dozens of activists who committed no crimes. This is the same Chinese state that starved tens of millions to death while exporting massive amounts of food in the name of communism. As Americans celebrated our freedom with fireworks, alcohol and hamburgers, protestors demanding democratic reforms in Sudan were murdered in the streets by their own government. In the past few months, the Sudanese government has killed hundreds of protestors and incidentally, their government is the same cabal that was responsible for the genocide in Darfur. Just a few months ago, around a dozen were killed, upwards of 70 were shot and an unknown but large number were jailed for protesting against draconian fuel price increases in Zimbabwe. Their situation has degraded to the point where five members of the opposition party in parliament have been arrested and chillingly, four are unaccounted for. Unlike the oppressed masses in these authoritarian and totalitarian states, who is to stop an American from expressing himself?

                In America, if a man is feeling curious, he can visit a bookstore and find an unabridged library of all human knowledge. For a moment, consider what this entails. No matter what the government thinks of a book, an author or an idea, a man can go and read about it without interference. No bureaucrat can tell a man he is not allowed to read Marx, Hayek, Locke or anyone else. A man’s only constraint in getting one of the great works of philosophy, the pinnacle of human reason is only the disappointingly small size of Barnes and Noble’s section on the same. Failing to secure a book there, it is sure to be on amazon or eBay. To illustrate this point (and because I simply needed a physical copy of it) I walked into a book store and purchased John Locke’s Two Treatises of Civil Government. The radical words in that volume sparked revolutions (most notably the American variety) to secure the rights of man and to develop new governments centered on the preservation of property and liberty. I encountered no trouble in securing this excellent book and I promptly had a discussion with a bored but well-read cashier about his arguments. I also saw approximately zero NKVD, SS or Red Guard men running up to burn it as soon as I purchased it either. Barring a misguided few schools or libraries removing a title or two, this is the general rule.

                What this all condenses down to is that America possesses freedoms that are not enjoyed by all humanity. This is the case whether or not the people appreciate it every day. Because we are so inundated with our liberty every second of every day, its blessings often go unseen. It can be said that our freedom and our attitude towards it is like a beach. The people notice that freedom exists at all times because it is so self-evident that it does. That is much like looking out at a beach and seeing the amalgamation of the sand instead of all the individual grains of it. When a man sits down and tries to think of all the displays of freedom in America, then he sees the individual grains of sand on the beach and appreciates their boundless expanse. That is really the purpose of this article –to imagine the individual acts of freedom that are carried on in this great land every single day. To be sure, they are as plentiful as the sand.

Photo credit: “Statue of liberty” Wikipedia

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