American Core Values: Freedom
American Core Values: Freedom
What Does it mean to be free?
There is no one answer to this question because it isn’t a very good question. Being free means many things to distinct people. For a gun enthusiast, they are free to own any gun made. To a white supremest it may mean kicking every person of color out of the country. To an immigrant from a gang riddled society, it may mean escape to America. To a journalist, it means the freedom to say whatever he wants. To most Americans it usually means the freedom, to live where you want, freely move around the country, work where you want, to believe what you want. The Oxford Cambridge Dictionary defines “freedom as the condition or right of being able or allowed to do, say, think, etc. whatever you want to, without being controlled or limited.”
Freedom of Speech
In the encyclopedia Britannica Freedom of speech, it is “the right, as stated in the 1st and 14th Amendments to the Constitution of the United States, to express information, ideas, and opinions free of government restrictions based on content.” A modern legal test of the legitimacy of proposed restrictions on freedom of speech is revealed in the opinion by Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr. in Schenk v. U.S. (1919): “a restriction is legitimate only if the speech in question poses a “clear and present danger” — i.e., risk or threat to safety or to other public interests that is serious and imminent.” You can speak freely as long as you are not inciting a riot or plotting the overthrow of the government. The balance here is between freedom of speech and censorship.
The Right to Bear Arms
This is one of the most debated rights in this decade because of the use of assault weapons in several mass shootings. Lawyers.com states that the meaning and scope of the right has been one of the most hotly contested constitutional issues in the US. In 2008, the US Supreme Court ruled that the second amendment protects the rights of individualist have and use guns for legal purposes. They also stated that this right is not unlimited and that some gun control is constitutional. This issue is far from decided at this point as we regularly see legal challenges to state and local regulations. Hopefully, at some point, common sense will prevail allowing you can own guns for certain activities such as hunting, but I must secure them in a way that children can’t get them. Military weapons should remain in the hands of the military.
Are you free to do anything you want?
According to the dictionary definition you are free to do, say or think whatever you want. This definition implies a level of freedom that is not that under which we live. The caveat is that we must comply with the laws of the land. We are free within certain limits. It is these limits and their interpretation and application that have caused an impressive deal of unrest throughout our history. Race riots in Los Angeles, the Marches in Selma, and the rise of Martin Luther King during the 60s. That people pass laws, interpret them in their favor, use them to suppress the rights of others has created racism, a lack of compassion towards immigrants seeking asylum, and the poor. This was no more apparent than in the treatment of George Floyd and the ensuing protests. Suppression of people’s rights leads to pent-up frustrations that await a spark to ignite them. We need to deal with the underlying pressures rather than try to make them worse through threats and intimidation.
Are Americans free?
America is known as the land of the free, because it grants us free speech, the right to live wherever we can afford to live, to practice whatever religious belief we want and to work where we want. But do we really practice what we preach? In certain areas of the country blacks are shot with impunity, the LGBTQ community members are regularly discriminated against, Muslims and middle easterners are shunned, and we pack immigrants in cages awaiting asylum hearings which are stacked against them being allowed to enter the country. If we are in fact the land of the free, then we need to act like it. We need to come together as Americans and work to free those who are being treated unjustly.
All lives matter, all religions matter, all people matter.