Who says we’re free to do what we want?

I read an article today on the NY Times’ website concerning the US military’s ‘don’t ask don’t tell’ policy regarding homosexual men and women in the armed forces. I found myself becoming more and more agitated as I read the article and the comments posted about the article. Not because of the issue the article centers on: homosexuality. (I think homosexuality is morally wrong by the way). I became agitated because of the attitude of the article and most its comments.

The article implies that it’s a human and social injustice that homosexuals are unable to be openly gay at West Point Academy and in the armed forces in general. Don’t worry I am not about to discuss whether or not gays should be able to serve in America’s armed forces. It doesn’t bother me in the least bit that homosexuals serve in my country’s military. What does bother me, is this innate cultural assumption that all of us have; and is very much the undertone of the NY Times’ article and its comments. That is, we deserve to be free. I am especially agitated because so many people think that being truly free, or freedom, means that I can do whatever I want, when I want. In addition, I ‘deserve’ to do what I want, when I want.

It may be an exaggeration to state our country’s sentiment on freedom in such terms. And regardless of what we each individually think about freedom, the sentiment described is the tone of our country’s attitude regarding freedom. There is so much entitlement that is wrapped up in our ‘freedom’ that I really wonder if we as a country ever take a step back to realize how fortunate we are. I mean, every man and woman understands the terms they are accepting when they join the military; nobody forced them to join that system or way of life. And everyday, every single one of us make decisions or enter into agreements that limit our ‘freedoms.’ Maybe it’s a store I like, but they don’t allow guns so I leave my gun at home; or the job I want/need is in the frozen tundra of Minnesota but I want to live in Florida; or maybe there’s a certain restaurant I like but they don’t allow smoking, so I don’t smoke and eat there anyway. Don’t get me wrong; I am all for legitimate social changes and fighting for justice in America; and by no means do I claim that America is perfect and has no need for improvement. But let’s just step back and ponder for a minute on how blessed we are to live in a country where we can ridicule our government without any fear of death, torture, or imprisonment. Honestly, how ungrateful do we have to be to complain about the parameters of an agreement to which we willingly agreed to enter into?

And I guess all of this just makes me ask who says we deserve to be free in the first place? I suppose you could say the thousands upon thousands of soldiers who died to establish and protect our ‘freedom;’ or that “We hold these truths to be self evident, that all men are born equal that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness.” If you actually read the Declaration of Independence you will notice 2 things: (1) the word ‘freedom’ is never used and (2) the word ‘free’ is only used with regards to the colonies being independent of Britain’s rule and authority. Clearly, the Founding Fathers had a different idea of freedom than we have today. Perhaps freedom then wasn’t cheap and assumed as ‘deserved.’

So I ask, what does this word “freedom” mean? It’s absurd to think that I am ‘free’ to fly like a bird and fly away, or I am free to shoot fireballs out of my mouth. And it’s impermissible to think I can steal someone’s identity and become who they are, or that I am free to lie, cheat, steal, rape, pillage, and plunder. I am not ‘free’ (from a lawful standpoint) to do these either. However, if I am honest, and if you are honest too, I think all of us would admit to the desire of wanting to be free to do something absurd or unlawful or even free to do something that is harmful to other people.

All of us look at ‘Freedom’ and think it is a good thing. Why? Is it really even a good thing or a thing to be had in the first place? I am not saying freedom is bad. I actually think it is a good thing. Although, I do not think one person on this earth has done a single thing to deserve to be free; nonetheless, it’s still a good thing. Clearly we have a problem of understanding and application of the word ‘freedom’ here in America. It comes in the form of two questions:

  1. What is Freedom?
  2. Do we deserve Freedom? Or, do we deserve to be free?

Undoubtedly, I am biased and think we should be grateful for freedom. But that’s only because of what I think true Freedom is. Perhaps if we all understood what true Freedom is or even determined that true Freedom exists, then we might stop assuming entitlement and quit complaining.

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