Who knows what is in the minds of men today when they see or hear the word, “freedom”? That one word seems to have taken on so many meanings though they may be only ‘sub-titles’ for a greater concept of what it means to be free. The word ‘freedom’ is more of an umbrella over different perceptions.
I’ve heard and read abstract ideas such as, “to be free as the wind”, “free as a bird”, and “free as a butterfly”, but inasmuch as we humans are none of these perhaps going back to the beginning of the development of our country is a more logical place to start.
The time was the 18th century, in the 1700s to be more precise. A group of men who decided there must be a better way of life for the increasing number of people coming to these shores to seek changes from oppression of one kind or another. I won’t even try to address all the pros and cons, but only remind you of the few ‘freedoms’ we had to learn about and discuss when I was in school. We were obligated to study (freedom?) two subjects dealing specifically with our country, Civics and American History. In high school we were introduced to World History and Democracy. However I’ll narrow the requirements down to a more modern way of thinking. In January of 1941, President Franklin Delano Roosevelt gave a state-of-the-union address before congress that focused on “The Four Freedoms”. At a time of war these “four essential freedoms” were; “freedom of speech and expression, freedom of every person to worship God in his own way, freedom of want and freedom from fear.” Reminders of these freedoms that were first set down in our country’s Declaration of Independence are not necessary, but what has happened here in America that has made great changes in the interpretations of our freedoms?
If you were to compare the United States of America with many other countries, I’m sure you would find that we live in a free country. I have visited and lived in countries where the freedoms so many of us take for granted as a way of life were, and perhaps still are, naught but dreams. There are some who might stand up and argue that we do not have any of the aforesaid freedoms, and in all honesty I can probably give examples from my own life in proof of such lack. But wait a moment!! According to whose perception do those freedoms not exist?
When I was in my senior year of high school I was obliged to study ‘Democracy’. My teacher informed us on the first day that in her class we were expected to ask questions and express opinions. Wasn’t that what ‘democracy’ and freedom of speech was all about? Why, then, when I asked a question and expressed an idea contradictory to the teacher’s belief was I sent from the room to spend the balance of the class period in the principal’s office? (That was considered the ultimate discipline in that school.) Was that an example of free speech?
Freedom of expression was usually understood to be ‘freedom of the press’, but I was never sure if that meant the paper could be printed and circulated, or if it meant everyone had the right to express an opinion in the paper. The city in which I lived had a newspaper with a very large distribution and a reputation for being honest and willing to be the people’s voice. Why, when I was an adult and submitted an article about an injustice to a professional friend by the governing body of a state organization was the wording of my article altered and much of it eliminated? Was that ‘freedom of the ‘press’, or expression?
Freedom of religion might be questioned by many. There was a time when ‘The Lord’s Prayer’ was recited in every school in the U.S., however that is no longer permitted. Who says we can’t have prayer in the schools? Don’t we have freedom of religion? Haven’t we accepted, with open arms, people from other countries who subscribe to non-Christian religions? Why are we no longer allowed to openly pray as we did years ago in a manner to teach our children the principles this country was based upon? The citizens of our country have permitted the change.
Freedom from want has never been addressed by our government to the extent that it has been eliminated. What is meant by, ‘want’? Do we have freedom from want?
Freedom from fear is a freedom nobody can or should try to promise anyone. With all that is going on all over the world today, do we have freedom from fear?
If you read the question at the end of each paragraph I will say, unequivocally, ‘yes we do have all those freedoms and more’. I was never imprisoned because of anything I said or wrote. I was not killed because I dared ask a question, express a doubt or disagree with ruling members of a city, state or our country. We in America are truly blessed, and little do we know what it is like to live in many of the countries we visit to soak up ‘the good life’! In the first place, tourists are treated differently than the natives of foreign countries. Oh, yes! I know, as a tourist we often have to pay more to experience our good times, museums, art galleries and the like, but that is our choice and is not the same as living in the country as a resident.
In the United States we are allowed to go to the church of our choice or not go at all. We are free to choose. There are countries of questionable religious freedom but if you were to ask any of the ‘officials’ of such countries you would hear an immediate response of, “Yes our citizens can go to church any time they wish!” They were right, but did you know that when the people left the church they were immediately arrested and ushered to prison? Such was the situation for many years in one country I visited.
We are free to live in the home or apartment of our choice, but not everyone is so fortunate. A visit to another country showed me that the size of the apartment a family is permitted to buy is determined by the size of the family. There are no houses in the cities with yards for the children to play in, and each person is allowed just so many square feet of living space from birth to death. Providing accommodations for a visitor can create considerable inconvenience.
Traveling from city to city and state to state is another freedom of ours. There are millions of people not so fortunate. Here in America we can voice any opinion we wish, but I have had several vacations in one country where it was not wise to voice a contradictory opinion of the government or its officials to anyone. Patriotic songs could not be sung or differing opinions expressed even within one’s own family. Parents vs. children or sibling against sibling could end in imprisonment or death. The time you were allowed outside your home to visit relatives and friends, was controlled by a curfew and non-observance of the time could result in a real catastrophe for the guilty one.
I am sure you get the picture by now of why I’m glad I am free to live in America. So how can we say or believe we have so many freedoms when there are ridiculous events going on around us every day? We make our own choices and everyone else is free to make his or hers! If we want to join a group of people who are protesting something, we have the freedom to do so. If we do not like the consequences of that choice we cannot blame anyone. The choice is ours. The truth is we make our own choices and in truth we are responsible for the choices we make.
Voting is another freedom and I have voted more times than I can count. If I do not vote I have no right to complain has been my argument for many years. Our present situation is corrupt and I believe everyone knows it. The current situation will become a part of the history of the United States and our country will continue to see many changes.
We as individuals will continue to make our choices and live in a country that allows us the freedom to do so. In spite of what is or is not taking place in the city or state in which I live, my ‘freedom’ is whatever I choose to believe it is.
My greatest sense of freedom is what I feel inside my mind, my heart and soul. I am blessed to not just have the freedom, but to feel freed to come and go where and when I please, to sit in the apartment of my choice and listen to music, lectures, or TV of my choice. I can read a wide variety of books on many subjects, and do what I choose to hopefully help others physically, mentally or spiritually to feel better and know that their personal freedom is whatever they choose to make it. Not only do I make my choice but I am free to allow you and every other person to have the freedom to make your choices. Dr. Brian Weiss, in his book, “Miracles Happen”, reminds us that we are spiritual people having experiences on earth. We are here to learn many things. When we learn to shed the negative emotions that control and bind us and truly accept and engage in unconditional love for all beings, we will then experience true ‘freedom.’
-Rowena Nichols, Columnist ‘Row’
Rowena Nichols, RN, Dr. MMT, PTA. Registered Nurse with BS in Nursing, Dr. of Medical Massage Therapy, and Physical Therapy Assistant(Certification). Beyond the use of her mass credentials, she has had a “full and rewarding life,” including living and teaching in Chile and returning to nursing at age 80. Currently, she is writing articles for several Newsletters and magazines, including problem solving for tutors of English at a Literacy organization in New Mexico. She recently celebrated a book release, Wired for Changes: My Recovery from a Stroke. Send your request and a bank check or money order for $10.95 to; Rowena Nichols, P.O. Box 65552, Albuquerque, NM 87193. Shipping is included.