This July 4th Holiday, think about the patriotic “buzz words” which drop from your lips. Just how “free” are you?
“Freedom is not free!” We hear this phrase tossed about by the political right quite often. As we enter this most patriotic of holidays, the 4th of July, I think it is important for us to drill down deep to the REAL meaning of this word. It is critical for us as American’s to think about the concept of “freedom,” beyond its existence as a knee-jerk political buzz word. Do you support and fight for freedom, or “free-DUMB?”
Recently, I wrote an article which challenged people to awaken to the subconscious significance of the words we hear and speak. To think through, not only from a word’s cognitive and dictionary meanings, but to think profoundly about the psychological connotations of the SOUNDS of the words we speak. We are judged (rightly) by the words we speak, as well as our behaviors and actions. What separates us from less conscious animals is we have the ability to use logic, follow patterns of an action’s consequences, and observe connections. This generation seems to have ceased truly thinking when it comes to our use of our language.
Does Freedom Mean Bombs?
When the bombs began dropping in Iraq too soon after 9-11, the conservative white community I lived in went ape-shit with joy. In order to stop those “Middle-Eastern Muslim evildoers” we began bombing the crap out of innocent men, women and children. They paraded in the streets, rejoicing at the “victory for freedom.” Never mind Iraq had zero to do with 9-11. It was like a party for them; waving signs, wearing flag adorned T-shirts made by slave labor in our conquered territories of Central American “Trade Free Zones.” A victory for freedom? No, a victory for free-DUMB.
Just How Free Are You?
As the political condition of our country further degenerates into hate speech, accusations of buzz words like “fake news,” and greater depths of Orwellian Newspeak, it is critical for us as individuals to really go inside to ask ourselves this question: “What does freedom REALLY mean to me?” “What am I really ‘free’ to do?”
In the town where I am from, Los Angeles, it is common for police officers to issue expensive J-walking tickets to pedestrians if they start to walk once the blinking “green man” stops blinking. NOT walking against a red light, just the cessation of the approval from the “green man” on the light signal. Do that in L.A. and get ready to fork over about $200 dollars.
I was absolutely shocked when I traveled to South Africa, Kenya, France, England, and Ireland. People walk across the streets in droves against a red light, as long as there are no cars. As long as it is safe. The police do not bother writing tickets, since they are too busy trying to keep their tax-paying citizen’s safe from crime. Real crime. Imagine that? Seeing that felt literally surrealistic to me.
This may seem like a minor thing, but I share it as a representative example. I have been told since I could understand my mother tongue that America is the “freest” nation on earth. It is supposed to be the freest nation ever in history. Yet, we have the largest proportion of people in prison, far beyond other nations? By whatever means you measure the idea of freedom, it would not include massive incarceration comparable to Siberian Gulags in Stalinist Russia.
Fight for Free-DUMB, or Live for Free-WISE?
Both of my grandfather’s fought in WWI and were damaged. My maternal grandfather coped with his “Shell Shock” (as they used to call “P.T.S.D.”) with alcoholism and getting addicted to prescribed opium. My father and mother both served in WWII. My father dealt with his P.T.S.D as a bomber pilot with alcohol, which they gave to him for “free” if he came back alive from his bomber pilot missions. My brother served during the Vietnam Conflict, and he came back damaged. They fought for their country to be “free,” but in doing so, became enslaved to substance abuse.
I love my country. I love the people in my country. But I do not love many of the political actions that many of the leaders in history have done. Specifically, invading countries, causing coups in democratically elected autonomous nations, and its historical crimes against people of color. That to me does not equate to freedom. It equates to serfdom.
Words and sounds have power. I willfully choose to celebrate my nation’s Independence Day by acting independently, not with mindless conformity. I willfully renounce my adherence to free-DUMB and instead, choose “free-WISE.” I choose to be wise, rather than dumb. I choose to truly live free, not fight for free-dumb.
If I live for free-WISE, then my thoughts, behavior, and actions will conform to my greatest heart desire, in a wise way. A wise life is a respectful life that acknowledges others who may be immigrants, have different ethnic backgrounds, or lifestyle choices than me. If I live for free-WISE, I will have a much better chance to achieve my life goal of being free. I am done being dumb for a rhetorical notion empty of real meaning. Keep your free-dumb. I choose free-WISE.