As Americans, it's easy for us to take our freedom for granted.
Have you ever seen a movie, watched a play, listened to a piece of music, read something, heard someone speak, witnessed an event, or had an experience that made you think in a different way than you ever have before? Something that changed who you were, even if only in a very small way?
As human beings, we define ourselves by our experiences and our relationships. “I am like this. I am not like that. This is how I feel. This is what I think. This is what I like. This is what I don’t like. I agree with this. I disagree with that.” Our personal identities are inextricably tied to our ability to explore the world and to find our place in it. In other words: our freedom, or lack thereof.
Have you ever considered what your life would be like if you didn’t have the freedoms you have today? What if you didn’t have the freedom to say what you wanted to say or to listen to others say what they wanted to say? What if you didn’t have the freedom to go where you wanted to go – to see or experience anything beyond your own narrow existence? What if news just couldn’t talk about certain topics? What if it were illegal to speak out against the church or the state? What if you were told what you had to wear, what you would do for a living, or what religion you had to be? What if you were forced at gunpoint at age 13 to join a militia that you didn’t support or believe in? How would you even know who you truly are if you didn’t have the freedom to be whatever you wanted to be?
And by the way, if you're thinking that this is a conversation for 1776, not 2013, think again. These restrictions on freedom are things that still happen in the world, right now – quite a bit of the world.
Freedom is how we know ourselves – by having the freedom to think and say and do what we want, and by others having the freedom to think and say and do what they want so that we can observe and compare and learn from their experience, as well as our own. We only are who we are to the degree that we are free to be.
Let’s remember that, and celebrate our Independence as individuals, as well as a nation.