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The Badge of Freedom

Robert Franklin

Posted on August 24, 2019 22:51

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Americans love to categorize the United States as a "free country." But how free are we really?

Our society wears its "freedom" like an ID badge, and we cling to the idea that we are free with such endearment that even a remote challenge to how "free" Americans actually are feels less like an invitation for debate and more like apostasy.

It's easy to rest on laurels and make a general cultural assumption derived primarily from a dubiously-substantiated talking point, which I think is what we have done when it comes to definitions of how free the United States really is. I think we are enamored with the idea of freedom at the expense of actually achieving it, since we routinely fall short on the actual experience of being a truly free society.

Put simply, a free society is either free or it isn't, and if the identity of a society is made up of all of its parts, then any deviation from freedom undermines a free society. It really is an all-or-nothing concept. Either everyone is free, or they aren't.

We know that some people in the U.S. are freer than others. This is routinely demonstrated in nearly every facet of the American experience. There are policies and procedures, at nearly every level of politics and social development, that disproportionately endanger and dehumanize one group of people or another. A capitalist economy, by its very nature, enables preferential treatment to some and complete annihilation to others. When emboldened by individual prejudices, these policies and procedures, along with this economy, place certain people in our society in some form of bondage, whether it be tethers smithed from fear, desperation, destitution, or ignorance.

This is -- or at the very least should be -- common knowledge.

This is why identifying freedom is important.

For freedom, as a societal state of being, to be empirically true, all who participate in the society must themselves be universally free. This means that facets of the American existence that disproportionately and antagonistically target certain groups of people over others must be made fair. To many, this may sound like an antithetical statement to another classic bit of "wisdom" routinely bestowed on unwilling ears: "life isn't fair."

While this sentiment is true, it isn't one that can maintain a place in a society that is truly free. There are absolutely certain parts of living that are not fair -- and that in and of itself will never change -- but the notion that "life isn't fair" insinuates that there are fundamental truths about one's existence that are disproportionate to others. This cannot exist in a truly free society.

So long as there are haves and have-nots, whose identity as one or the other is influenced by factors beyond their control, such as by virtue of their race, sex, or an economic system designed to generate both comfort and destitution, a society cannot truly be called a free one.

Either everyone starts at the same place, or they don't.

Either everyone is free, or they aren't.

Robert Franklin

Posted on August 24, 2019 22:51

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