Do People Really Want to Be Free?

Homecoming 2015: Freedom Issue

Whether you’re sitting in class listening to a history lecture or watching CNN, there is one word that is heard over and over: “freedom.” We hear about the fight for freedom of expression, freedom of speech, freedom of religion, and many others. The valiant search for liberation has brought our country achievements such as the Civil Rights Movement, freedom to practice any religion, and the freedom for anyone, regardless of sexuality, to marry the one they love. Without these freedoms, our country would not be able to function as it does. Despite the outstanding aspects of being free; do people really want to be free?

Being free takes a lot of work. Atheist author and speaker, Christopher Hitchens, spoke about freedom during his God is not Great, book talk: “I would say there is the real temptation of something poison to humans, which is the fear of freedom.” Hitchens brings up the idea that religion is an excuse for people to not be fully free. Although I’m not sure I entirely agree with this statement, it brings up a unique perspective. Different groups and causes are constantly searching for the freedom and ability to do, or say, whatever they like. This, of course, is desired by many, but not all. If people are held captive by rules and regulations, it is much easier for them to know what to do at any given point or how to stay out of conflict. A simple example of this is schools with uniforms. Although I’m sure there are many students that despise having to wear plaid skirts and collared shirts to school every day, there are those who cherish it as well. Without the freedom to wear whatever they like, it eliminates the need to think about and plan what outfit you’re going to wear everyday. Although this is a minor example of the repression of freedom, this mindset is still prevalent in many large scale situations. There have been times that I’ve had the feeling that the world would be a simpler place if people couldn’t voice their opinions. Obviously this would result in disagreement and rebellion, but the idea that with freedom of speech comes conflict, is undoubtedly true.

The United States as a whole is an extraordinarily privileged country and because of this I consider myself to be personally very privileged. I believe this may filter my perspective on the necessity of freedom. I live in a country where I can say whatever I feel, wear whatever I want, and openly believe whatever I’d like. This is not the case is many countries. If I were to transport myself to Saudi Arabia, I would not be allowed to drive a car, wear makeup, interact with men, or even walk down the street without a chaperone. These freedoms that we, as Americans, are granted are an enormous privilege in themselves. I do not believe that these rights should be taken for granted, although they often feel like an obligation.

My small town of Arden has quaint monthly town meetings similar to those found in Gilmore Girls. Last month was the first town meeting I attended as a legal voter. I finally had the freedom to vote, yet it only felt like a burden. I had to take the time to make a decision on what I would vote for, attend the meeting, and make my voice heard. This is a freedom that I can not take for granted, yet don’t entirely feel the need to take advantage of. I was striving to not become another teenager that doesn’t educate themselves enough to contribute to their democracy. There is an outstanding fraction of our country that chooses not to take the time to learn about candidates and step into a polling booth for less than a minute. What is even harder to understand are the people that decide to not vote, and continue to voice their disapproval of how our country is run. I strongly believe that voting is a privilege and a necessary part of being an American. Despite this, it is difficult to always care about every aspect of our country’s politics.

The difference between not wanting to be free and feeling burdened by freedom is a fine line. I feel as though Americans are conflicted with this difference everyday. We want to cherish the opportunities we are given, yet don’t feel like taking advantage of all of them. I believe that people have the fundamental desire to be free and have the opportunity to exhibit their believes at their own accord. We are all just a little bit lazy sometimes and lack the motivation to live out our freedoms everyday. We need to choose what aspects of life we get the most out of, and the aspects that we simply let slide past us. It’s true that freedom isn’t free; with it comes immense responsibility.