What is Freedom?
Freedom defined: the quality or state of being free: the absence of necessity, coercion, or constraint in choice or action
“Freedom isn’t free” might seem like a strange statement to some. The truth is there was a price to the freedoms and privileges we enjoy as Americans today. That price has been paid time and time again. On battlefields across the world where our servicemen and women have fought for freedom and sacrificed their own lives for others, on the streets of America where law enforcement personnel have stood to serve and protect, no matter the cost, and by our nation’s Founding Fathers, who had the courage to take a stand and fight back against the tyrannical hand of the British monarchy. It’s because of these brave men and women throughout our nation’s history that we have the ability to enjoy the civil liberties that are part of what make America so great.
What protects our freedom?
During the mid-1700s, the thirteen colonies along the east coast of North America were under British rule, which was becoming increasingly tyrannical and oppressive during the years leading up to the American Revolution. The British monarchy was suffering through an economic crisis brought about by the massive debt it had incurred during the French and Indian War, and King George III decided to use the colonies to try to get himself out of it. He began to impose exorbitant taxes on the colonists, while also inflicting repressive legislation such as the Quartering Act (where colonists were required to provide free room and board to British troops), and the Intolerable Acts that forced extremely restrictive laws and limited the colonist’s liberties until they were practically nonexistent. This obstruction of liberty galvanized the Founding Fathers, prompting them to form the Continental Congress and to organize a rebellion against British impositions. Tensions continued to rise between the colonists and the British and the inevitable Revolutionary War began. On July 4, 1776, the Continental Congress passed the Declaration of Independence, the first of three documents which would come to be known as the Charters of Freedom. With the signing of the Declaration of Independence, the United States of America was born, established on the principles of freedom and justice that her people were willing to fight and die for. The Constitution of the United States was drafted in 1787 and ratified the following year, becoming the supreme law of the land and defining the limitations, structure, and processes of government. The final of the three charters is the Bill of Rights. Written by James Madison, the Bill of Rights is made up of the first 10 amendments to the Constitution. It imparts certain prohibitions of unnecessary government intrusion and it both defines and secures our civil liberties.
“The Constitution is not an instrument for the government to restrain the people; it is an instrument for the people to restrain the government—lest it come to dominate our lives and interests.” –Patrick Henry
“Hold on to the Constitution, for if the American Constitution should fail, there will be anarchy throughout the world.” –Daniel Webster
All three Charters of Freedom can be found here: www.archives.gov/exhibits/charters
What is the relationship between freedom and peace
In America we are granted liberties within the context of the Constitution and its amendments, so that every one of us can enjoy peace. Freedom is the foundation on which peace is built. Without freedom, peace crumbles away into dissent. Tyranny fosters turmoil and discontent that will fester until an inevitable revolution—much like it did for the American colonists. Perhaps Patrick Henry, one of our nation’s Founding Fathers, said it best: “Gentlemen may cry, Peace, Peace!—but there is no peace. The war is actually begun! The next gale that sweeps from the north will bring to our ears the clash of resounding arms! Our brethren are already in the field! Why stand we here idle? What is it that the gentlemen wish? What would they have? Is life so dear, or peace so sweet to be purchased at the price of chains and slavery? Forbid it, Almighty God! I know not what course others may take; but as for me, give me liberty or give me death!” These same truths remain relevant today. We must remain ever vigilant to the cause that our forefathers went to war for, and that our nation has fought for and defended throughout our history. Our rights, the freedoms that were established at the birth of our nation, must be protected or else we will never truly have peace.
“We welcome change and openness; for we believe that freedom and security go together, that the advance of human liberty can only strengthen the cause of world peace.” ― Ronald Reagan, The Quest for Peace, the Cause of Freedom )
“Freedom without peace is agony, and peace without freedom is slavery.” –David Johnston
Freedom of Speech
The first amendment of the Bill of Rights grants us freedom of speech, which includes both the things we say and our symbolic actions. The power of free speech is vast. Because the government can’t impede our ability to formulate our own opinions, we can speak out, whether in protest or support, of cultural issues. This gives us the power to elicit change and progress, without the fear of being arrested and prosecuted for doing so. It’s important to understand that there are certain things that aren’t protected by this amendment, such as using words that present a “clear and present danger” to those around us, or infringe on the rights of other people. We do, however, enjoy the freedom to express our own beliefs and opinions, to protest (peacefully) against things we don’t agree with, and to have access to a free press.
Freedom of Religion
The very first clause of the First Amendment guarantees freedom of religion, barring the government from prohibiting the peaceful exercise of religion or establishing a religion. In other words, as Americans we enjoy the freedom to practice (or not practice) religion as we see fit. We can’t be forced to convert to a religion by the federal government, the state government, or any other groups or individuals. Alexis de Tocqueville called religion “indispensable to the maintenance of republican institutions.” Conversely, there are still countries today that don’t enjoy this freedom. The Islamic Republic of Iran, for example, is controlled by the laws of Islam, their official religion. This makes it extremely difficult for the religious minorities who live in Iran. They are governed by the laws of a religion they are not a part of, and they suffer from discrimination and harassment, which can limit both their education and career opportunities.
“On close inspection, we shall find that religion, and not fear, has ever been the cause of the long-lived prosperity of an absolute government. Whatever exertions may be made, no true power can be founded among men, which does not depend upon the free union of their inclinations; and patriotism and religion are the only two motives in the world which can permanently direct the whole of a body politic to one end.”
–Alexis de Tocqueville, Democracy in America (1830)