Here in America, we equate freedom with the free market, free speech, and the right to legally acquire an arsenal of automatic weapons. Some people’s definition of freedom in America also includes affirmative action, freedom of choice, and habeas corpus (the right to a fair trial). Many Americans consider the ability to vote, practice any religion, and access education intrinsic to their concept of freedom.
Dictionary.com defines freedom as, “the state of being free or at liberty rather than in confinement or under physical restraint; exemption from external control, interference, or regulation.”
It is interesting to note that here in America, euthanasia is illegal. So are many drugs, some of which come straight from the earth. American prisons are overflowing with non-violent offenders criminalized for possession of medicinal herbs. In America, a compound called Laetrile, made from apricot pits, used to shrink cancer tumors, is illegal (due to it’s toxic effect in extreme doses). In 33 cities in America, it’s illegal to feed homeless people. 31 states have adopted constitutional amendments that ban gay marriage. Last August, Chelsea Manning (formerly Bradley Manning) was sentenced to 35 years in military prison for exposing the truth to her fellow Americans.
However, in America, you are free to drink as much alcohol as you’d like. In America, you are free to supersize your fast food meal. You are free to be bigoted, racist, elitist, or sexist. You are free to kill, eat, and wear animals, and scientists are free to perform torturous tests on them. In Florida, Americans are free to shoot other Americans if they feel physically threatened by them. American corporations are free to fund political campaigns, and American leaders who commit warcrimes are free to walk away from the consequences of their actions to become painters. At one point in America’s history, Americans were free to own humans of other races, and American men were free to beat their wives.
American women, on the other hand, weren’t free to vote until 1920.
Americans like to celebrate progress, but as Gandhi professed, “There is no such thing as slow freedom. Freedom is like a birth. Till we are fully free, we are slaves. All birth takes place in a moment.”
Happy Independence Day, my fellow Americans; we’ve still got a long way to go.