Freedom is for people, not export

Hunter Deas, Copy Editor

The U.S. government has claimed to have given Iraq the gift of freedom. It is supporting the Egyptian move toward democracy. It cheers the atmosphere of democracy spreading throughout the Middle East, a faint whisper now a loud murmur, here and there a sudden shout. Even now, the United States fights to bring freedom to Afghanistan. But when was freedom the United States’ to give? While freedom is certainly a thing to which every American can claim to be entitled, is it a gift to be given? Can such a gift in truth be a gift at all if its recipient is forced to receive it?

Can democracy be forced? No. Democracy cannot be imposed; it must be born. It must grow from the seeds of rebellion against oppression. It must be the manifestation of an innate desire for freedom, for not the inalienable right to free will, but the inborn character of humanity that demands such freedom. It must be born of the people, for the people themselves.

Plutarch, in “Moralia,” said, “Character is habit long continued.” We humans are, if nothing else, the product of our choices. Even under duress, we make choices – to eat or fast, to drink or thirst, to speak or to be silent; if we are robbed of even these choices, we exercise freedom of thought. Choice is the most basic of freedoms, and it is the freedom upon which all freedoms are built and which all rights and liberties exist to protect.

Freedom is not something to be given, shared, taught or exported as a commodity. It is an inborn quality of every man, woman and child, of every human being; a seed within each of us that grows inevitably, regardless of whether it is oppressed.

To be free is the very essence of what it is to be human, and people have, throughout history, endeavored to push the envelope and be more free. It can be seen everywhere: children want to watch TV instead of going to bed at night; teenagers want to drive themselves, and not rely on their parents; workers save for retirement, when their schedule is not dictated by an employer; entrepreneurs seek to never answer to a boss; prisoners try to escape; slaves revolt and demand a most basic freedom – the freedom to choose how to live their own lives according to their own means.

Even those people who have such freedoms seek to be more free; medical advances allow the handicapped to go far in overcoming limitations; and the ability to travel, a modern marvel, has overcome the limitation of location. Freedom of expression, in style, in music, in literature, is seen all over the United States, the “land of the free.” Throughout the world, just the same, can be seen each and every person doing everything possible to be who he or she is. If humanity shares one thought, perhaps it is “I want to be me.”

Freedom is not a trade good. Freedom cannot be given, but rather oppression can be ended. If ultimate freedom is anarchy, then, as most would agree – democracy! – government is a necessary evil. Let it be of the people, by the people and for the people! The U.S. did not free itself, did not become a nation in order to be another England; neither did Ireland so free itself. Cuba did not fight to be another Spain, nor did Mexico. These countries, these nation-states, made up of people! declared themselves to be independent. The people each declared, “I want to be me!” They created nations, their own governments, freedom expressed as they saw it, as they wanted it.

Instead of exporting U.S. freedom and instead of attempting to create replicas of the United States, the United States should support movements for freedom that are already ongoing. Instead of investing in countries, the United States should invest in people.