Archive for August, 2014

As a pretty ignorant history major with a lot of lessons left to learn, there is one in particular that has become more relevant more and more as technology progresses: Is America really free?
 
To look at this, we have to look at our history. We are a country full of ironic meanings to the word free. We fought for it, enslaved others with it, liberated others under it, and took control of the world with it. So how are we not free? English set out to escape religious persecution as well as the right to have relatively free land, while others merely wanted gold and vast amounts of territories. Putting the loss of freedom for the Natives aside, I will mainly focus on the English colonists’ journey of independence in the name of freedom. Fast forward hundreds of years, from the Magna Carta to the English Bill of Rights, the pro-independence colonists referenced these magnificent historical documents as support for their quest for freedom. The colonists grew tired of being subjects to a country who disregarded their civil freedoms and went to arms. Tocqueville said that man is by nature prone to laziness, unless he wants something better. That “something better” is exactly what the colonists wanted; freedom. They fought a revolution under the banner “all men are created equal*,however equal did not mean equal in the modern sense. Modern history loses the small, but important paragraph in the declaration that was edited out: fading out slavery. Jefferson originally intended to free every slave. Due to this important section being left out, every generation is taught to question, “If Jefferson wrote ‘all men are created equal,’ why did he still own slaves?” While Jefferson did want to eventually extinguish slavery, he and many other Northern founding fathers could not conjure up an effective plan to transition away from the greatest assistance to an important cash crop that carried the economy of a pre-Industrial Revolution America as well as Virginia, Jefferson’s and Washington’s home state. He did however, attempt to include this important clause:
 
He has waged cruel war against human nature itself, violating its most sacred rights of life and liberty in the persons of a distant people who never offended him, captivating & carrying them into slavery in another hemisphere or to incur miserable death in their transportation thither.
 
What Jefferson is detailing, is the wrong that King George III has committed in allowing these innocent foreigners to be forced into slavery far from their homes and forced to endure torture to this new land. 
 
Through trial and error, the people of America learned what did and did not work when it came to nationwide and individual freedoms, especially with the Bill of Rights. While this idea of freedom faded until the Civil War and the fight for freedom for all, the idea of free was still not fully achieved. We passed constitutional amendments to make black men free, then women, and eventually women, yet we were missing the big key to unlocking freedom. During the Roaring 20s, there was the feeling of freedom, however that was temporary due to WWI and the Great Depression.
Ever so often, we find a sense of peace knowing we have freedom, then a tragedy will come along and we voluntarily give it up for security. This is most notable following 9/11/2001. We gave up a large sense of freedom so we could be more safe, like being checked at airports, federal wire taps on the public, and certain instances of our freedom of speech. So as long as we crave security, complete freedom is impossible.
 
So go on, soar near and far, but know this: freedom was, is, nor will ever be free.