Liberty Bell crack

 

What does the word "liberty" mean and what needs to be done for everyone to have more of it in this country?

 

Let's start with the definition according to Merriam-Webster:

lib•er•ty
noun \ˈli-bər-tē\
plurallib•er•ties

Definition of LIBERTY
1: the quality or state of being free:
a: the power to do as one pleases
b: freedom from physical restraint
c: freedom from arbitrary or despotic control
d: the positive enjoyment of various social, political, or economic rights and privileges
e: the power of choice

 

Here are appropriate synonyms:

Emancipation, enfranchisement, independence, liberation, self-determination, suffrage, power of choice...

 

Liberty as used in the political sense means having the power and resources to fulfill one's own potential and has two implications:

1. The ability to live life as one chooses, regardless of how others feel about it.
2. The existence of the rule of law that allows people to live as in #1 so that circumstances do not prevent it.

 

These definitions have variations and interpretations around the world but for the sake of this article we shall focus on the United States.

 

The literal crack in our Liberty Bell, now has a metaphorical counterpart. The problem with liberty is that many perceive the inability to make others live as they believe, as an act that lessens their own liberty, not realizing that it is they themselves who are the impediment to true liberty.

 

Of late this has taken one form that has torn our country apart; the abuse of religious liberty. Where the Constitution provides a clear wall of separation between church and state, we as Americans have always tried to be tolerant of those with special needs arising from their beliefs. So the idea of acting in a prejudicial way toward someone because of the way they look, dress, eat, etc. is generally accepted as un-American and when bigots make fun of Hasidic Jews, or women wearing Chador, the reasonable among us roundly condemn them.

 

There are many sects all through our history that felt the only way for them to be free to practice their rites and lives as their faith dictates, they must separate themselves from the overall society. The Amish and Mennonites are among such and as a rule most Americans are ok with that. Of course there have been many examples where cults separating themselves out has gone horribly wrong, think Jonestown, Heaven's Gate and the Branch Davidians of Waco.

 

The problem of late in this part of religious liberty is the new push to break down 'the wall' and force others to bend to particular "beliefs". This has taken many forms in the last few years... the fight to put the Ten Commandments in court houses, prayer in school, the constant reinforcement of "in god we trust" and the inclusion of "under god" in the Pledge of Allegiance and refusal to revert to the original.

 

It has also given impetus to individuals breaking the law by refusing to accept LGBT equality and in particular gay marriage. This has ranged from private business refusing service, to county officials refusing to issue marriage licenses to gay couples, all in the name of religious liberty. Let's be very clear here, none of these represent persecution of Christians as is claimed by the dominionist evangelicals but the very antithesis, religious persecution of everyone else by Christian fundamentalists. So the only way this fits into the subject of liberty is as one of the primary forces attempting to lessen liberty in this country.

 

Some define liberty in ways that mean there should be less government "intrusion" in the form of regulations on business... But that brings us back to the statement above. How does removing environmental regulations increase liberty, when it would actually impose pollution on all of us, make worker abuse more common and create inferior products with the only motivation being profit? How does allowing corporate money to buy elections increase liberty, when the result is usurping democracy? These are false interpretations of liberty, actually perversions of the very word.

 

How can there be more liberty? Well, we must strive to ensure that we never pass laws that lessen the social contract and protect those already in place and then enforce them. In order for true liberty to exist for ALL, there must be acceptance that your liberty ends where mine begins. That you can live according to your own beliefs, as long as those beliefs do not infringe on my right to not live that way and that your actions cannot cause harm to anyone else.

 

So, let us work in this "sweet land of liberty"... and ensure that true freedom shall always ring.

 

 

Jose Rosa

Jose Rosa

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