Tomorrow is the Fourth of July. Since many of you have started visiting my site only in the past year, I’m going to reprint the article I wrote for this occasion the past year. My apologies to those of you who have already read this, and to all of you, a joyful celebration of our freedoms.


            When you look in Webster’s Dictionary for the definition of “free” and “freedom” you will find the meanings as a series of negatives: “not under the control of some other person or arbitrary power; able to think and act without compulsion or arbitrary restriction; not under the control of a foreign government; not held, as in chains; not kept from motion; not confined to the usual rules or patterns; not restricted by anything except its own limitations and nature…” This reminds me of the tag line in a Wall Street Journal article talking about the collapse of Communism and the Soviet Union, in which a Moscow resident remarks, “We are free – now what?”

            I was born in a time when freedom was elusive to absent in a large part of our globe, in a country where a knock on the door or the unexpected ringing of the phone brought terror based on very justified fears, and the only freedom one dared dream about was being allowed to exist in obscurity by staying under the radar of the ever watchful secret police and their countless informants, some of whom could have been, or in fact were, people you knew well. To those who grew up in the luxury of free society, these feelings are beyond the boundaries of experience, and cannot be truly imagined, much less viscerally acknowledged. To those who lived through them, they can never be forgotten.

            Perhaps the most frightening aspect to those of us who were not always blessed with the freedoms the rest of us take as our birthright is the knowledge of how easily and rapidly freedom can be lost. My birthplace had the traditional freedoms of a Western society throughout all my parents’ lives until shortly before the time of my birth. Throughout history, the loss of freedom has occurred as often from within as without. The desire to have power over others is a primal drive, and well recognized by the men who framed our Constitution. The system of checks and balances they designed, brilliant in its conception, can only endure as long as there exists a populace dedicated to the principles the document embodies.

            We are about to celebrate our Independence Day with a cacophonous collision of fireworks scattering falling liquid gold, emerald, and scarlet streamers across skies hazy from countless barbecues, as speeches are made and parades march under unfurled banners. For those who have served, as well as those whose family members sacrificed limb and lives, the price of our freedoms are forever etched in hearts and minds. For those brought up in a tradition of service, the memory remains that the price of freedom is dear. The paradox of freedom is that those who desire it the most must also be willing to subjugate some of their personal desires to see it achieved. 

            The world is a complex, complicated, and often frightening place. I can understand the desire to hide in the cocoon of daily life, of carpools and groceries, of work and play, and ignore the whole messy, confusing affair. Let the professionals, the politicians, the generals worry about what’s happening, and concentrate on our own turf. Unfortunately, this road, by which we abdicate responsibility to others, leads to the other end of George Bernard Shaw’s cynical observation, “the replacement of the incompetent many by the corrupt few.” The man was right – the price of freedom is eternal vigilance. So we must remain vigilant, not only of our enemies, but of those to whom we entrust our daily freedoms. We must not, can not allow our fears of the known or unknown to seduce us into turning those freedoms over to a perceived strong select few who claim to know what is good for us, and promise us security in exchange for giving up power over our own lives. Too many through history have done this. Too many suffered and died as a result of their mistake. Freedom cannot be defined by the absence of bad things – slavery, fear, subjugation. It needs to be defined by positives, by action. But what can we do, you plaintively ask? We can educate ourselves to the issue affecting our lives. We can educate our children so they understand the history of this great nation, both the good and the bad. We can be willing to serve to sustain the causes in which we believe, and at the same time allow for, and demand intelligent discourse from those whose belief is different than our own, as well as from those we have chosen to lead us. We can attempt to instill in our children the values and ideals on which all free societies are founded, and which our Constitution helped codify. We can teach them that there is a difference between patriotism and nationalism, that loving your country is not the same as blind acceptance or support of any governmental policy. We can resist the temptation to demonize those who oppose us while we are struggling to hold true to the core principles of our beliefs. We can and should encourage, demand that everyone give of themselves in the form of some national service for a period of their life. It’s the only way we can be exposed in a one on one setting to those whose ideas, opinions and backgrounds are different than our own. We must demand accountability not only from our leadership, but also from the press and the media, not to sink to the lowest denominator, but to help raise the level of discourse in all walks of life from mud slinging to enlightening. And finally, we must teach and practice respect for the persons and property of our citizens, along with this planet, and those with whom we share it.

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16 Responses to Freedom

  1. Linda says:

    Happy Jul 4th there!
    All the best!
    I probably can not often come here to visit, as well as add sth in my blog recently. But it doesn\’t mean I don\’t care. I will be back!

  2. Aafrica says:

    i still blame my parents for never encouraging me to pursuit a career of my dream. but come to think of it, they\’ve gone thru all the wars and political movements in modern Chinese history. to them, pursuing one\’s dream is a dangerous idea.

    i\’m glad i made my way to this country. it offers so many opportunities if one looks hard enough. i\’ll have a lot to say to my son for having the privilege of being born in this country.

  3. Pamela says:

    Happy Independence Day, Jorge!

  4. Cheryl says:

    Nope i did not see it last year but i am glad to read it this year.
    Turning those freedoms over to a perceived strong select few who claim to know what is good for us, and promise us security in exchange for giving up power over our own lives.
    Great statement and I fear for us in giving up so many of our rights….

  5. not such crazy says:

    Happy Independence day Jorge
    P.S. In my not wery long life I lived in socialism post socialism and capitalism …I experianced all these three  social systems and I cant descrone them only as black or wite…thes experiances are interessting …

  6. Betty says:

    Hi Jorge,
    Thank you for that perspective.  I believe that those of us who were born into a free country, take it for granted.  I suppose there were other times when I should have been frightened by our loss of freedoms, but I am very afraid about the attack on our Constitution by the current Administration.

  7. Joe says:

    Hi J,
    I\’m back from marching across England (I\’ll post my journal a day at a time).
    Your point is interesting in respect to trading freedom for security.  Where does a person draw the line?  When I was young in college (the mid \’70s) I wouldn\’t have traded any freedom.  As you get older, you worry about personal things like your posterity (daughters, sons, nieces & nephews).  You are easily coerced into supporting legislation & political philosophy that you feel will protect those you love.  But you have to wake up & realize that there are no such guarantees.  If you use Isreal as an example (they are the closest to a "police state" as I can think of), if you have enough enenmies, you have to clamp down on everyone to insure the best safeguard for the general populace.  It\’s a tough trade-off — freedom for security.  Even the Patriot Act reminds me of an old sci-fu novel of the mid \’70s that had a "Domestic Enemies Act" (T.A. Waters, "CenterForce").  It is not an easy decision.  You want it all:  security and freedom, but you know it isn\’t possible.
    Thanks for making us all think about dealing with this paradox.
    Best Regards,
    P.S.  Despite the jet-lag, I\’ve had a great fourth…and I do love this country very much…especially when I think about the alternatives.

  8. Marge says:

    Powerful words, Jorge…
    There is nothing I can say; here you have said it all.
    I can only add my "amen".
    Peace and love, always…

  9. PJ says:

    Good Afternoon Jorge,
    You do have a way with words. I just got back from my Mother\’s and will be posting some photos taken from the small town she lives in.
    If this makes you feel any better, I usually work all holidays as well. So, do not feel alone in that aspect. LOL.
    Happy Wednesday my friend.

  10. A Utah Woman Am I says:

    Hey there Jorge.
    How are things going for you on your side of the globe?  I hope that all is well and that you enjoyed a nice Independence Day!  I know that we did here in Utah.  Because of the rain, we weren\’t able to enjoy it to its fullest, but the cool air was wonderful!  I mean, a break from the heat is nice isn\’t it?
    I do not know if I have read this post before.  As I do not recall how we came upon each others spaces.  Perhaps you recall that one?
    Nevertheless, I couldn\’t agree with you more.  We do take our freedom for granted–partly because we do not really know what we have until we lose it.  I have always lived in the US–this means that I have always enjoyed the freedoms that we have here.  I do not know what it is like to live elsewhere–though one day I would love to.
    One must never stop learning.  And we must teach our kids the same. 
    Nothing is free.  Even freedom.  (What is the cost of freedom?)
    Wishing you a great belated holiday my friend!

  11. Magenta says:

    I knew I would find an inspiring Independence Day blog on your space, Jorge. You did not disappoint me.

  12. sonia says:

    Happy independence day (belated)!!!! very powerful writeup you have here! Very inspiring!! We do tend to take our freedom for granted because maybe we have not seen,felt,experienced what it is like Not to be free……! Can only imagine not feel! Freedom is precious .. i belond to India and our freedom struggle is a 100 yrs old,ie it took almost 100 yrs to get the precious freedom in 1947 after the first struggle in 1857…..!Books tell the experiences,have ppl around who can narrate their experiences especially when it lead to Partition and the nation divided into india and pakistan! the bloodshed,the pain,the horror…..that finally creates history for the future to read!Now preservation is in our hands and for the generations to come!
    You have a grt power of expression!have enjoyed the experience….

  13. Stephen Craig says:

    Jorge,  Am really glad you re-posted "FREEDOM".  You would face a tough challenge to try and top it!  Fine writing!  As ever be well.  Stephen

  14. PJ says:

    Afternoon Jorge,
    Stopping in to wish you a great evening and rest of the week.
    Until next time…Keep Smiling.

  15. Kathryn says:

    Always know I\’ll see something interesting and profound here…

  16. Holy says:

    Haven\’t been on your site in a long time – awesome blog and worth reposting, Jorge!  Food for thought and more to the point, action….

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