Man is man because he is free to operate within the framework of his destiny. He is free to deliberate, to make decisions, and to choose between alternatives. He is distinguished from animals by his freedom to do evil or to do good and to walk the high road of beauty or tread the low road of ugly degeneracy. (Martin Luther King, Jr)
It is my belief that the ongoing goal of humanity, that drive which keeps our species ever-changing and growing, has been the search for freedom. Not the freedom that has been defined however; for these freedoms of religion and speech and bearing arms do not make us truly sovereign over destiny. In America, the famed land of the free, I can still get tickets for jay-walking, still be fined for being out past curfew, still be prosecuted for going where it is deemed I should not go. It is true that in this country, we are given many freedoms. Freedoms that dwarf the civil rights granted in other nations. Freedoms that many would (and have), died for. Yet freedom is not something to be compared, nor something to be so easily malleable. We should not be ‘more free’ or ‘less free’ than someone or something. We should simply be free. Martin Luther King, Jr. was one, among countless others, who strongly believed in the freedoms of man. He knew that freedom does not apply only to the physical realm, but the mental, the spiritual, as well. For a man to be free, truly, he must be alone. Not in his heart, or soul, but in his mind. When someone can make a decision for themselves – really for themselves – that is freedom to me. When there is no fear of the opinions of others, when consequences are less an afterthought and more an after, when a man’s own fears and reservations have no seat at his council of thought; freedom is achieved. And with this freedom, this ability to do truly as one’s self desires, comes happiness. However, “freedom is not merely the opportunity to do as one pleases; neither is it merely the opportunity to choose between set alternatives. Freedom is, first of all, the chance to formulate the available choices, to argue over them — and then, the opportunity to choose” (C. Wright Mills).
“Who speaks of liberty while the human mind is in chains?” (Francis Wright).
It is true that often times in the history of mankind, men have had to fight, to kill for their freedoms. Even more often, they have had to die for it. Yet this only encompasses half of the battle for true liberation. Emancipation can only come when the mind is free of influences not its own. America fought for its freedom once, fought to escape the taxes and laws and subjugations that a country across an ocean tried to impose on them. Yet after America won, the policies of the old government didn’t truly die, nor did the money Britain collected disappear – it merely changed hands. This money was needed to unify and better America, but what had happened to the ideals of freedom? Freedom cannot be a thing, something that we have. It is a state of mind, of the soul. It means freedom from the critics, the ignorant, the hate, and anything else that might be used to bring one down. Freedom is what makes us human, and only when we can each achieve for ourselves what our forefathers tried to achieve for our country will there be true happiness.