We all say we want it. We send our soldiers into harm’s way to defend it. As a society, we clamor for it. As individuals we struggle for it.
But freedom is a funny thing. It seems that when we DO get it, we don’t like it very much. Freedom to make choices, freedom to be self-reliant, freedom to express ourselves, freedom to be the best we can be, and the freedom to create the life we want are all part of the American Dream.
At least it is for some of us.
But, sadly, freedom and anxiety are two sides of the same coin. Many people, when they finally get the freedom they’ve been clamoring for, want to give it back. That’s because freedom carries with it a heavy burden—the weight of personal responsibility. Freedom forces us to realize that we, alone, are accountable for our choices and decisions. Many find it MUCH easier—and safer—to comply and conform with what authorities are dictating, rather than to stand strong in their own faith and ability to handle life’s situations.
The sociologist, Erich Fromm called it the “escape from freedom.” His basic premise is that humans don't want to live with the personal responsibility of freedom. Freedom can be disorienting and uncomfortable when one is responsible for their own well-being. Many just find it easier to give up their freedoms for the security of someone else taking care of them and making decisions for them.
So how is this principle being used by our government to their own advantage?
The answer is simple. FEAR.
The government knows that the more people are afraid, the more willing they are to give up their liberties. The government, then, has more control and power.
“But it’s only temporary.” “It’s for the common good.” “These are extraordinary times.” “This will pass soon enough.” “It’ll be over soon.” “But it’s just a little freedom we’re giving up.”
That’s what we’re told….but once we give up a "little" freedom, it never comes back.
Look what happened after the terrorist attacks on 9/11.
That event launched the “war on terror” that saw the Patriot Act enacted, which severely curtailed freedoms and expanded government powers (i.e., warrantless searches, increased spying of Americans, secret wiretaps on Americans without probable cause). The war on terror was to be “temporary” until the terrorist masterminds were brought to justice. But, even though Osama Bin Laden was killed a decade ago, the war on terror continues today. And, oh yeah. Now, the number one threat to this country is “domestic terrorism from white supremacists,” according to the government.
Another example of fear being used to erode our freedoms is the threat of climate "catastrophe." To save the environment, we are being told what we can eat and drink, how we're allowed to use our private property, what type of vehicles we can own, and how we should drive. We’re facing drastically higher fuel prices because the government shut down our pipelines and drilling fields at a time when we were completely energy independent. And now, as Joe Biden did this week, we beg OPEC to open the spigots to pump more oil because our prices are too high. “It’s for the health of the planet,” they say.
And then, of course, there’s the pandemic. Not only have the powers-that-be made every effort to terrify us, we’ve also been shamed, threatened, and coerced into giving up our freedoms over our own bodies. The cycle repeats over and over -- the government and media ramp up the fear, and the population willingly accepts their increased control and “protection.” Now, celebrities and even a former governor, Arnold Schwarzenegger, publicly denounce liberty and scream, “Screw your freedoms!”
Sadly, Arnold Schwarzenegger’s response seems to be the view our government has adopted.
We can ALL agree that rights and freedoms don’t occur in a vacuum. My rights can’t supersede yours, and vice versa. For a democratic society to function, rights and freedoms must occur in the context of our interactions with all members of society. And the ONLY way that happens is through mutual respect for each other and the open, free, and public debate of the issues.
That’s the part that is missing.
Our government, through its censorship and stifling of dissenting views, borders on the tyrannical.
The only way this ends is for all of us to stop cowering in fear, stand up, use our voices, and demand to be heard.
With the ratcheting up of fear and the lack of any meaningful debate, too many are willing to trade self-reliance, individualism, and liberty in exchange for a life without the anxiety of freedom.
Freedom is something that dies unless it's used.
-Hunter S. Thompson
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