Next Monday is Memorial Day in the U.S., a day when we honor fallen warriors who have made our freedom possible. It’s easy to make it just another day on the calendar. Yet, if we simply pause and think about the impact of those lives on our own, we can quickly appreciate the direct and daily benefit that we receive from them.
Others impact our freedom; and we impact theirs. We can cultivate our honor and integrity to memorialize anyone who lived and died so that our freedom can be enjoyed.
Have you ever known anyone who impacted your freedom in a positive way? Have you ever diminished the freedom of another? Is it possible to move beyond what we call a “holiday” to a place of profound gratitude for all who value freedom so much that they are willing to die for it?
Sometimes, having no responsibilities or commitments to someone or something else feels like freedom. Yet, Janice Joplin sang, “Freedom’s just another word for nothing left to lose,” and often so-called “freedom” can feel empty and meaningless.
In your life, do your commitments feel as though they impinge on your freedom? If so, are the rewards worth the price? If all of life has trade-off’s, what are the trade-off’s that you’re making that either have you feel more free or less free?
Do we believe in freedom enough to fight for it for others with whom you fundamentally disagree? Perhaps the litmus test for this question is the degree to which each of us is willing to defend the right of all people to voice their opinions – even if those opinions are noxious and odious to our sensibilities.
Yesterday, I was verbally accosted by a woman sitting in front of a store with a display for a political point of view that I find particularly unappealing; and, yet, it was somehow comforting that she was free to sit there with her posters and espouse her beliefs.
Woodrow Wilson said, “I have always been among those who believed that the greatest freedom of speech was the greatest safety because if a man is a fool, the best thing to do is to encourage him to advertise the fact by speaking.”
Are you genuinely willing to fight for the rights of all protected speech – even if that speech is directly offensive to you and those whom you love?
Freedom of speech is guaranteed in the United States by the Bill of Rights, yet what is going to happen to a free press as newspapers shut down? Among the most provocative proposals is to have newspapers become non-profits. This proposal recognizes the inherent public good that is done by the press.
This year, St. Petersburg Times came in second only to the New York Times in winning Pulitzer Prizes. What’s remarkable is that the Florida newspaper was willed to a non-profit institute by its previous owner; and that precedent has ignited conversations about how freedom of speech in journalism can potentially be saved by having newspapers become charities in the public interest.
What do you think of this approach? How free do you feel in terms of freedom of expression in the press? If it were up to you, how would you preserve the vital function of a free press in times of a dying business model for newspapers?
This week, let’s consider freedom in as many different contexts as possible. Gandhi said, “Freedom is not worth having if it does not connote freedom to err.”
The freedom to experiment, to make choices and to make mistakes is foundational for other freedoms. Dogma opposes freedom. Yet, seemingly paradoxically, there can be tremendous freedom in profound commitment.
How free are you? Not just in the abstract, but in reality: How free are you to live the life you desire? What impediments have there been to your freedom? Is it possible that the most significant detriments to our own freedom have been self-made?