Freedom is…having your own take on freedom

by Kristin on July 3, 2012

in Culture, ideas & paradigms

Photo by Amani

It was Canada Day, and we were telling friends over lunch about the all-out Canada fest we were invited to that evening, hosted by a Canadian friend. Suddenly, I realized the day to celebrate MY home country was just a few days later, and while we had elaborate Canada Day plans, we had no plans at all for July 4th.

“We better do something about that,” I nudged Jason. As I said it, I realized my desire to have a plan was more about 1) not feeling lame and left out, and 2) not being pegged as “those anti-American socialists” than it was about a deep-seeded desire to celebrate being American.

While I think it’s perfectly fine to be ambivalent about these things—in fact, it always feels more honest to me to have complicated, mixed feelings about politics, religion, heritage, etc. than it does to buy in to the whole package—I did start pondering what being “American” means to me.

“Freedom” was, not surprisingly, one of the first concepts that came to mind. What came right along with it was the recognition that my feelings about freedom don’t necessarily look like traditional, patriotic expressions of the word, but that my experience with freedom is just as important to articulate, and every bit as valid.

So what does freedom look like, to me?

- Freedom is choosing to be a part of a community that looks out for one another, in a culture that’s all about pulling oneself up by your bootstraps.

- Freedom is having access to thousands of books and ideas, and having time to reflect on them, discuss them, and even change my mind along the way.

- Freedom is being able to say “I don’t know” when I’m faced with tough questions—it’s about valuing the discovery process over the ownership of “right” answers (and parenting my kids from that perspective).

- Freedom is not just going to church on Sunday to freely worship my God, but going to a church that gathers together the most diverse group of people I’m likely to be around all week, not the most homogeneous group.

- Freedom is loving the strange mess of characteristics that make me ME, even when some of those characteristics seem contradictory and don’t “fit the mold.”

- Freedom is about realizing that some constraints—a form—can bring more true freedom than doing whatever I feel like doing in a life without boundaries.

- Most of all, I believe freedom is found in our ability to disagree about what freedom looks like.

From where I stand, the increasing polarity in our country is the greatest threat to our freedom, even though many cling to that polarity as the very thing that will protect them. I’ll admit, I get really riled up about certain opinions and positions that run counter to mine, but I also fully recognize that living in a country where people can disagree—with kindness, thoughtfulness and respect—is something I value highly, as a form of freedom.

That polarity also thrives on our cultural dependence on stereotypes and the way we jump to conclusions about people. While I get worked up about the use of stereotypes, it’s almost worse when people fit those stereotypes—when they become caricatures of the polarized extremes we’ve fallen into. Because that’s another thing I value as a form of freedom: living in a country where we can still surprise each other, in a mind-opening, joyous way that blows all the categories to pieces, like fireworks on Independence Day.

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  • Jen

    Thank you. I needed this today. You are wise.

  • ed cyzewski

    Great stuff Kristin.

    OK, I’m going to air a little of my crazy side here… My general sense is that the divisions of our country that matter don’t necessarily boil down to ideologies or political parties. They boil down to power, influence, and control and who has those things. Those who have the power and control need to divide those who don’t have power and control. That is why the bottom up, grass roots, apolitical Kingdom of God is good news to me. It doesn’t play the power and control game because it changes the rules and realigns allegiance to terms that subvert political wedges that are used to divide and control. The Kingdom doesn’t fight for “political power,” but it does have the power to unite us in ways that make us more dependent on one another and one God while also making us more free. One type of power relies on strength and division, another type of power relies on meekness and unity.

    You have now met my crazy conspiracy side. :)

  • Eva

    This 4th, celebrate the independence of you! Happy 4th.

  • Kristin T.

    Jen, I hope your day was full of things that you can celebrate about being who you are, where you are!

    Ed, you can always feel free to air a bit of your crazy side here! I absolutely agree with your assessment of the divisions in our country boiling down to “power, influence, and control,” but I still think part of the way that power is exercised and manifested is through political parties. Lots of empty promises are given as those with money/power/influence draw people without those things to their side. Anyway, I don’t think we’re really saying different things—I just feel a lot of division around ideologies on patriotic holidays like July 4. And ultimately, YES—this is what matters: That is why the bottom up, grass roots, apolitical Kingdom of God is good news to me.” PREACH.

    Eva, thanks! It feels good to be free! :)

  • Vernon J

    Great article.

    I think that we set the 535 members of congress down at an Ice Cream Buffett they would get things done.

  • Joi

    I’m so glad you were inspired to walk us through your thought processes about bottom-line Independence Day true freedom ideas. What a breath of fresh air! It’s so important to have this discussion and expand our appreciation for what we so often take for granted as citizens of the USA.

  • Kristin T.

    Vernon J, you may be right—ice cream changes the whole tone, doesn’t it? Thanks for reading and commenting!

    Joi, it’s funny how often I think I need to have these things all worked through before I can write about them. Thankfully, it often occurs to me that there are probably others out there who would like to work through things alongside me—that I don’t have to have it all figured out first!