Americans are infatuated, perhaps obsessed, with the idea of freedom. Freedom has become a marketing slogan. It casually appears in advertisements for cars, food and clothing, as if freedom is a purchasable item. But even with all the allusions to freedom, citizens in â€œThe Land of the Freeâ€ still do not comprehend what freedom really means.
Freedom means the absence of external control, regulation or interference by an individual or government. Also, freedom is a unitary concept; therefore it cannot be compartmentalized or fractioned into politically-convenient pieces. You either have it or you donâ€™t. True freedom persists unfettered and unregulated.
Today an illusion of freedom exists in the U.S. Homosexual couples cannot marry. Drug use, even for medicinal purposes, is illegal. No one under the age of 21 can legally consume alcohol. Yet at 18 you can join the armed forces, rendering you legal to kill and be killed â€œin defense of freedom.â€
While Democrats and Republicans claim to support freedom, their policies have proven to be incongruent with liberty. The political left associates freedom with a large benevolent government that forcibly creates equality by heavy taxation and control of wealth. The political right associates freedom with military strength, nationalism and corporatism. Both parties willfully misuse the word â€œfreedom,â€ as a feel-good political symbol or appeal to nationalism. Who doesnâ€™t want to vote for freedom?
If true freedom existed, there would be no government control over the economy or society. That is where the concept of liberty becomes scary for those who believe government is needed to save us from ourselves or to establish a moral code. However, since politicians do not possess special powers that render them morally superior, they are no more qualified than the average citizen to enforce moral codes.
Spider Man said it best, â€œWith great power, comes great responsibility.â€ In turn, with great freedom, comes great responsibility. Government is not responsible for making you a better person, you are.
Individuals must be responsible enough to discern what is in their best interest. Even if you have the right to smoke heroine or carry an assault rifle, it does not mean that it is in your best interest to do so. Moreover, your liberties are ensured only as long as you do not infringe upon the liberties of others.
Although you may not agree with what your neighbors do in the privacy of their homes, you certainly do not have the right to restrict them from practicing what they believe is best for themselves.
â€œWhen you defend freedom, you defend freedom of choice and you canâ€™t pick and choose how people use those freedoms. So if they do things that you donâ€™t like and you find morally repugnant, I as an individual donâ€™t make that judgment. So I donâ€™t believe government can legislate virtue either,â€ said Congressman Dr. Ron Paul in his speech titled â€œDemocracy is Not Freedom.â€
When government reduces freedom by regulating virtue, the policies may actually discriminate against a group of people. For example, in 1996 the government enacted â€œThe Defense of Marriage Act,â€ thereby institutionalizing discrimination against U.S. citizens who happen to be homosexual. Since then, gays and lesbians have not been able to enjoy the freedom to marry, share spousal health benefits or adopt a child in â€œthe land of the free.â€
In conclusion, if you want true freedom, you must accept that although you may disagree with the life choices of others, we are ALL given the right to â€œlife, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.â€ If the U.S. desires to continue fighting in the name of â€œfreedom,â€ I think itâ€™s time we realize what freedom really is and start practicing it here before we try to take it elsewhere.
Courtney Stuard is a senior journalism major. Her column appears Thursdays in the Collegian. Letters and feedback can be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org.