Why America Isn’t Free (And Why It’s Better That Way)

Never has a word needed more definition without receiving any: freedom.

Boy, do we fight for freedom in this country–as we should! Speech, religion, voting rights, working rights, marriage rights, and these are just the ones on the radar recently! We love our freedoms and our rights and we will fight tooth and claw for them. But lately, I’ve been wondering: what exactly is it that we’re fighting for? What does freedom truly mean?

From reading news reels, blog posts, Facebook updates, and the like, I’ve assembled a modern, Western idea for what freedom means: I have the inherent right to do whatever I please however/whenever I please. To us, Freedom implies Absolute Liberty without any constraint whatsoever.

“Now, that’s ridiculous,” you say, “no one believes that extremely.” Well, we certainly act like it. Every time anything is removed from the internet, people scream about free speech being beaten to death by a blunted axe. When a religion tries to convert people, everybody whines about being oppressed because someone’s trying to get them to do something they don’t want to do.

I think that’s the best definition yet, actually: “You can’t tell me what to do.”

Is that what we fight for? The ability to do whatever we like, however we like? We call any form of boundary a jail and any form of government an oppressor. We want nobody over us saying “do this,” or “don’t do that.” We want to be masters of our own domain, free to choose anything, do anything, say anything, and anyone who tries to persuade us otherwise, by any means, is a monster who needs to be locked away or killed.

This is how we define freedom. And it’s a lie. Why?

Because it’s ridiculous! It’s amoral! It’s illogical! It’s a kind of faux freedom that shatters the very essence of freedom itself! I’m honestly waiting for the day when a pedophile sues the government for infringing upon his rights. “I’m not a monster, I’m a person with legitimate desires. It’s not a mental condition, it’s how I feel, it’s who I am. You can’t deny me for being me.” Or how about the person who wants everyone to stop shaming him because he uses the N-word. “I have freedom of speech. I’m tired of all these people oppressing me and judging me just because of one word I use. It’s prejudice!” Or this one: “You can’t tell me not to tell you not to get an abortion, I have free speech!”

Again, you roll your eyes, but are we not moving in that direction, the way we clamor for our individual rights? But those things are wrong, you say. You can’t do those things!

Good, we’ve established that freedom is not an absolute.

So why do we act like it is? Simple answer, we don’t think. We’re a culture that relies more and more on our feelings and acts upon them. We don’t like the way we feel when people say “no,” so we bark back like rottweilers. We’re losing the art of using our brains to consider if there’s something greater than that uncomfortable churning in our stomachs. We’re so full of ourselves that we want instant revenge on anybody who doesn’t agree.

But just scroll back up to my example of the pedophile and you’ll agree with me: we need boundaries. Not all walls are jails, in fact few of them are. Most of them are for safety, comfort, and logical division. Would you want your office in the cafeteria? Delicious, yes, but also noisy! Do you want no walls or doors when you’re having sex? Is everybody free to watch? Walls are okay, and we need to accept that.

You can’t shout “FIRE!” in a burning theater if it’s not really on fire because the resulting panic would hurt or possibly kill people. Our freedoms need boundaries to protect us. If everyone could do anything they wanted, that wouldn’t be freedom, it’d be anarchy. We like to throw that word around a lot these days, anarchy, because once again, we think with our feelings, not our brains. But when someone else comes along with a bigger gun, we run to the man who used to be in charge, only to remember that we already killed him.

Nobody in their right mind wants anarchy. Rather, they want to be in charge. They want to set the rules and be king, but by definition, anarchy has no king. You’d be subject to the chaos as everybody else. By fighting too hard for freedom, we destroy it. 

If we truly want freedom, we must learn to surrender it. We have to put up a fence somewhere and learn to enjoy the space within. Yes, that fence prohibits us from running as far and fast as we can, but do we really want what’s out there? And do we want what’s out there to come in here?

But the world is changing, you say. That is true, and sometimes we look at a fence and realize we have cut off our brother from the rivers of life. I’m not advocating oppression, legalism, or throwing our head on the chopping block. We need wisdom and discernment in this matter as any other, but that’s my point: wisdom and discernment, not just feelings.

To move or alter the fence may be wise, indeed. But I fear that we’re getting tired of moving our fences, that it would be easier to break them all down. But when the sheep have no fence, the wolves eat for free.

So how do you define freedom?

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