dou·ble·think: the acceptance of two contradictory ideas or beliefs at the same time.
We Americans sure love our freedom.
But freedom has taken on many meanings over time. As a result, its concept has become increasingly abstract––dangerously so. Coupled with its deeply entrenched importance in the national conscious, it has morphed into a non-questionable justification for acts of oppression, discrimination, and greed.
Freedom really isn’t free
Freedom in its purist meaning is one of the most beautiful and inspirational concepts ever born out by humankind. It’s an ideal we can and should strive for, which means being able to differentiate the ways it’s used.
Americans love freedom from an individual standpoint. To most of us, freedom means self determination and independence. If we had enough money, for example, we’d have the freedom to not work for a boss. Therefore, the boss’s will could not be imposed upon us. The boss would not be able to decide how we spend our time — we would. Owning a house — a linchpin component of the American dream, means we are not reliant on landlord for shelter, and we decide how every dollar of our money gets spent.
On this scale, we also accept that with freedom come responsibilities. We understand that we must respect the freedom of others to a certain degree, or we sacrifice security. For example, we do not have the freedom to vandalize a rival’s car so they cannot make it to the interview for the job we want. We as a society agree there is an ethical boundary in which respecting others’ freedom
Doublethink: Freedom as oppression
But that concept of freedom become grotesquely contorted when used on a political stage. In effect, its used to justify the very mechanisms and operations that deny people and often, other countries, any degree of self determination.
Perhaps the most obvious example of this was notion that American went into the Iraq war to ‘defend freedom.’
When one country invades another, that country is on the offense. The invaded country is by definition, on the defense. Given the Iraq War was fought in the Middle East, Iraq was by default in the defending position, and the U.S. was in the offensive position.
That means our freedom did not need to be ‘defended.’ There was nothing on the offense to defend against. Period.
We often tout the free market as a golden standard, but when corporations falter, it’s socialism all the way. Those that accept socialist help (bailout money) are often the first to decry work wages and benefits as impediments to the ‘free’ market. Wall Street likes to pull the ‘freedom’ card to defend practices of blatant market manipulation.
It’s dog-eat-dog capitalism for the workforce, but socialist safety nets for corporations.
Those that defend the Second Amendment have every right to do so, but they need to address other Americans’ freedom to not be gunned down in public places.
We are a ‘free’ country with 20%+ of the world’s prison population.
How did the meaning of freedom become so deformed?
If freedom is important to us, we must deal with the yin to the yang. How can we reconcile our personal freedom while respecting that of others?
For freedom to reach its purest form, it can not ignore its responsibility of tolerance and respect.