What's True Freedom?

Despite the fact that yesterday was the 4th of July, (not today) there are STILL a gazillion fireworks going off right now in my parent's neighborhood. It's insanely loud and my kids are complaining about it. The fact that they're complaining about the noise and not that they aren't outside lighting sparklers is how I know those kids are actually really tired. As for me though, I don't mind the noise so much, but it makes me wonder how loud being in a war zone in Iraq or Afghanistan must be.

Aren't we all so lucky that we most likely will never have to experience such a thing as a war zone? (Knock on wood, right?)

I thought a lot about those soldiers fighting for "freedom" yesterday. I'm sure some of my preoccupation might have been due to my spending time with my sister. She was in the army and I remember worrying constantly that she wouldn't come home. I worried I wouldn't get to tease her again about being short or having a major bootay years before J. Lo and Kim Kardashian made it cool. I worried I'd never get to harass her again about ending her cancer stick habit... So I compensated by cutting out every Surgeon General's warning I could find in magazines (dozens) and putting them in an envelope and mailing them to where she was stationed.

I worried I'd never get to give her a hug again or tell her I love her.

And so yesterday, as I hung out with her at her husband's family reunion, I thought about how many of our military families received notification on Independence Day of the death of their son or daughter, their husband or wife, their sister or brother.

Will those families ever look at the concept of freedom the same?

Our selfish world believes that true freedom is the ability to do whatever you want, when you want. How many times have I listened to Kanye West sing, " Excuse Me, is you saying something?
Uh, uh, you can't tell me nothing!"
Yeah, listening to no one and doing whatever you want is supposed to be freedom.

Sometimes I wonder if the vast majority of people even really want to know the truth. I think our media doesn't report too much on this war because, well, do we really want to hear about it? It's much easier to just believe we're all free to do what we each want. Wreck the environment, eat too much, go to war for invisible weapons of mass destruction...

Even Chase credit cards tells us we can do whatever we want in their commercials. Credit card companies are soooo good at making us feel like the world is our oyster and we can get and do whatever we want. They make us say, "What I want to do is go charge up this credit card at Sephora! Who cares if I have the money to pay."

Yeah, that's supposed to be freedom. My four year-old believes this sometimes too. He believes he should get pretty much whatever he wants, when he wants it, and no matter the cost to anyone else.

All the rest of us should know better.

I hope those folks that are, 24 hours later, still celebrating this nation's independence, have taken a moment to remember those who've given their lives for us. I hope the fireworks aren't just about a pretty cascade of sparks raining down on us.

But for the grace of God, that could be us over in Iraq or Afghanistan, thinking about freedom and what it really means.


Amen Liz. I'm glad your sister back home safe and sound.

I have given a lot of thought this 4th holiday about what being an American means to me. Who is a patriot? How does race impact what I think about my country? There was a lively debate going on at my blog. I was saying maybe one reason why the Italian red-tape or non american ways don't drive me as crazy as it does other expats is because I have dealt with more heavy/serious crap in America.

I'm reading a book now that talks about the situation in Iraq. This war is a disaster. We will be paying the price for decades.
Anonymous said…
Those of us who live in a relatively peaceful, ordered and democratic country don't always realise just how lucky we are compared with those living in the midst of war, famine and dictatorship. And we often forget how many people have toiled and struggled to achieve the basic freedoms we take for granted. To imagine life is simply about having anything you want whenever you want it is so crass and blinkered it beggars belief.
Liz Dwyer said…
Every time I hear something about the dollar cost of this war I cringe because that's insanely high -- but we haven't even begun to measure the mental, spiritual and human cost of it. We are definitely going to pay for a long time.

We are quite lucky. Sometimes I think about how different my life would be if I'd been born somewhere else, somewhere with less opportunity, somewhere where girls are not allowed to get an education. It makes me very grateful for my life, even with all it's imperfections.
Ian Lidster said…
Happy Fourth (two days late) to you, valued friend. Freedom, aha. Old Kris said it's just "another word for nothing left to lose," and maybe there's a truth in that cryptic comment.
the joy said…
As I'm reading this, I'm listening to system of a down and sending my marine brother a message, asking him if he gets to be in a parade today. He's not in Iraq. Yet. Sigh... Our freedom is taken for granted. I hope I'm never in the position to have to physically fight for it.
thailandchani said…
There seems to be a lot of confusion about the difference between market freedom and real freedom - which would include health care for those who are sick, an education for those who want it, and jobs for those who need them. Freedom would also indicate a lack of racism and discrimination of all sorts.

I feel horrible for those who go to other countries to fight, believing one thing and discover too late that they are really fighting for wealthy business interests.

Sorry. I know this is strong.. but sometimes it just needs to be said.

Anonymous said…
What is freedom? For many people around the world having other countries' involvement in their nation's affairs is the antithesis of it. People complain about illegal immigration but don't think about how NAFTA put 1/3 of a trade partner's workers out of business and they need to feed their families - just feed, not buying SUVs and million dollar homes. People tout the vegan lifestyle as being healthier - and superior. They don't place the same value on the lives of the workers who pick the fruits and vegetables they enjoy and focus on an animal. People decry rap music as being destructive but they continue to fund it through their consumption of it. People take the corporate media's word and refer to another nation's leader as a dictator without evaluating the criteria that went into determining that. Maybe they didn't want to destroy the lives of the citizens of their nation instead of supporting the citizens of another's. And Nelson Mandela was just removed from the US Terror Watch List. All these years he's been branded a terrorist. All in the name of 'freedom'?
1969 said…
Now this was a great 4th of July post. Thanks for the reminder of what the day is really about.
Jen said…
This was a wonderful post. I echo others in being relieved that your sister is back home and safe.

I'm praying there's an end to this senseless war soon and that sons and daughters (and wives, husbands, aunts, etc., etc.) will be able to return to their families soon.
Liz Dwyer said…
There's probably a whole lot of truth in that comment, sadly enough.

The Joy,
I hope you're never in a position to have to fight for freedom on a macro level either. Of course, on a micro-level, we each have to fight for freedom in the smallest, most subtle ways. I hope you don't mind me saying that I hope your brother doesn't get deployed. I sure hope not.

Yes! That's so true. Market freedom is a fleeting illusion that belongs in the dustbin along with social Darwinism.

I often think about current veterans in the context of how the civil rights era was influenced by the experience of black GIs who'd gone to Europe, fought for this country, and then came back and still had to endure Jim Crow. Without their experiences, their unwillingness to go back to the status quo, where would we be. It makes me wonder what current vets will influence and change.

What you write is so true. How sad that the American dream is supposed to revolve around freedom, yet we really are slaves to consumption and our own sense of superiority.

Thanks for saying so. It was hard for me to remember the true meaning in the midst of chowing down on watermelon and three-bean salad. :) And gosh, last year I think I wrote about childhood memories of drunk relatives (among other things). It felt better to remember what it's really all about.

I'm relieved that she came home safe as well. I know it didn't have to be the case.

I can't believe how long this war has gone on and how disengaged we are from it, or at least until we go to the gas station and pay $4.50 a gallon for gas.
Lisa Johnson said…
This post reminds me of a stream of consciousness essay that I wrote many years ago. I started out by saying that for the most part I am free to do what I want, but in the end I realized that freedom comes with consequences and thinking in the short term often causes problems, so real freedom is tempered by responsibility.
Anonymous said…
Los Angelista said..."Kanye West sing, " Excuse Me, is you saying something? Uh, uh, you can't tell me nothing!"

Despite the misguided decision that set him free despite his reprehensible, indefensible, irresponsible behavior it makes sense that his concept of freedom would be self centered selfish and misogynistic.

Freedom is not just about being able to do as you please - it's about having the opportunity for self determination and make choices and taking responsibility for those choices and the outcome of that even if others do not agree of with the choices. Freedom is so not free! God Bless and keep safe the troops and their friends and families for the tremendous sacrifices they are making (even though they and the country were lied to and horribly misled) to give others the opportunities we take for granted.

Excellent post and a fitting way to let those and the families and friends of those in harms way know that their sacrifices matter and are valued and appreciated - especially given the lack of "truthful" leadership.

Thank you


Fantastic post - thank you. I have more friends than I care to count over in Iraq right now, friends in Desert Storm, and family in every war (or "conflict") since the Revolution.

There was more I wanted to say, but I think you just summed it up so well.

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