Updated: January 23, 2012 2:05AM
Freedom is a wonderful word. For many of us the connotations conjured by the sound of that word mean so much. From the liberation of our spirit to the discharge of the repressed soul from tyranny and despotism; freedom is something desired by all.
Of course, as important as the word freedom remains, the concept for which it stands is even more important. It is an idea that cost the lives of an inestimable amount of people fighting to secure its reality. From the beginning of time, the human spirit has yearned to be free.
Of course, in recent history, America holds the distinction of being a bastion for freedom; and not only the principles of freedom, but the active pursuit of this principle by those oppressed within our borders. Our American struggle from the Declaration of Independence through the movement for equal civil rights for all regardless of ethnicity proves that the relationship between the great American experiment and freedom is inseparable.
Equally important in any discussion of American freedom is the reality that though we tout ourselves as the “Land of the Free,” there exist many more peoples across this world that yearn for the same freedom we all too often take for granted.
Hence the recent situation in Egypt is an example of this desire to be free. As the populace there grew weary of dictator-like control, they formed a movement to change their government. Before we become too critical of the Egyptians’ efforts to free themselves from what many of them perceived to be an oppressive state, let us remember the words found in our own Declaration of Independence.
It states, “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. That to secure these rights, governments are instituted among men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed. That whenever any form of government becomes destructive to these ends, it is the right of the people to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to affect their safety and happiness.”
These words do not simply apply to America, but they apply aptly to all born into this world. In this context, the people of Egypt desire to form new government, removing their consent to be governed from the previous regime, and steadfastly giving that same consent to a new regime. This is their sacred duty in the pursuit of freedom.
It is this love for freedom that drives the human spirit toward a destiny that recognizes the worth of every person, regardless of ethnicity or dissent of ideology. Freedom is our common bond along with our common humanity. We are bound together as people and we are bound together in freedom.
How then does freedom come with boundaries? One might say that true freedom is boundless. I disagree with that because the bond of responsibility is the very essence of freedom.
If I am truly to be free, then I must be responsible to respect the pursuit of life, liberty and happiness in my fellow inhabitants of this planet.This means that those who tout an urge to be free yet act to infringe upon others rights to attain their full financial, spiritual and personal liberty are the same who subvert the very idea of freedom. To take from one and give to another in the pursuit of freedom is nothing more that thievery disguised as intervention.
Those who love freedom must also love others. We must love enough to assist others in reaching their full potential and liberty. This means a hand-up takes precedence over a hand-out. This means that truth trumps lies and excuses. This means that we must have equal opportunity in a free society if not equal results.
Tragically, many who serve in our government seem to forget the important principle of liberty. Former President Ronald Reagan said, “Government’s first duty is to protect the people, not run their lives.” This means a retreat from the idea that people cannot make decisions for themselves, in their interests, the interests of their families and communities.
We must require our government to reflect the principle of true freedom, the right to determine what is best for us within the boundaries of respect for those around us. Protection of this right of self-determination begins with understanding that a right, in the words of Professor Walter E. Williams, is something that does not confer obligation on others. Everything else is simply a privilege. The confusion between the two often leads to a misunderstanding of true liberty and solemn duty.
I truly believe the future of our country depends on the maintenance of this delicate balance between freedom and responsibility.
The Rev. Raymond C. Dix Jr. is senior pastor at Berean Fellowship Church in Gary.