This I Believe

Greg - Portland, Maine
Entered on April 12, 2007
Age Group: 18 - 30
Themes: freedom

A Plea for the Responsible Use of Freedom

Americans live divided on numerous social and political issues that affect our everyday lives: military intervention in foreign policy, abortion, gay marriage, the role of religion, the role of government; the list goes on and on. This division fuels dialog amongst us, between everyday citizens and politicians, as well as through the media, and it’s challenging to envision a time anytime soon where this divide is not made apparent at least once within the course of a given day.

One issue that most people do agree on, and in fact cherish as a foundation to our country’s way of life, is our freedom. People define freedom in a variety of ways, but for the average American it rests heavily as a greater need for both safety and independence. Freedom means having choices, feeling empowered to make decisions, and having the opportunities available to do what makes us happy. The question is, or at least the question I grapple with, centers around one problem I see regularly in my country: Is it possible to misuse and abuse freedom?

I believe in the responsible use of freedom. I initially started out thinking that what I believed was that Americans had too much of it. That we abused our freedoms because we took them for granted, and we therefore needed some of them taken away. But I have since settled not on a need to remove some of our freedoms, but more on an advocacy plan to promote a more responsible use of freedom.

When I look at the present status of natural resource abuse in the world, I see a need for intervention. Did you know that the average American uses twenty-five times as many natural resources as the average world citizen? In our country, we have the freedom to buy cars, buy fuel, use it as we see fit and as we can afford. In fact, our government subsidizes this aspect of our society, and being a vehicle owner and driver today is as American as apple pie. But what about the fact that petroleum supplies are limited, and we are slowly draining the last of the world’s supply? What about the fact that burning such fuel damages our planet, promoting global warming and literally fueling international conflict and warfare? Should we be free to support that?

This is where I see a need for a more responsible use of freedom. Just as most Americans, I enjoy knowing that I can do what I like, generally when I want to, so long as I am not harming others. But when our freedoms begin to breach this status, and are in fact a detriment to humanity, the environment, and the future of our planet, I think we need to reconsider our values. And I’m not preaching from a soapbox here. I own a car, and I enjoy the independence it allows. I would just like to see more advocacy, more support, coming from the top down, encouraging the responsible use of freedom, the responsible use of our cars and many other luxuries we enjoy. Because we all need a voice of reason once and a while, someone reminding us regularly that there is a better way to live. We can walk more, ride a bike, and take a bus or carpool. This should not just be a small underground grassroots movement, but a part of the national agenda, because sooner or later we are all going to face the same future. To me, knowing that my country supported a more responsible approach to preparing for this future would make all the difference in the world.

Freedom is a gift, and a blessing, but we all need to examine our choices. We are free to do and say a lot, but we are not free to be ignorant. We are not free to be blind, avoiding the reality that does and will continue to affect our lives, and thus our freedoms. It is for that reason that I believe in the responsible use of freedom, and the patriotic gesture of intellect towards our actions.