The hell of freedom, they say, is that it isn’t free.
Nor should it be.
The cost though, may not be what we expect.
Those of us who were born in and live in America were blessed with opportunities that many around the world will never see. Things people dream about. Not our televisions, or cars, or phones, or any of that. Not our jobs, or our money. We are blessed with the opportunity for silence. We are given times of safety. We are given the opportunity to voice our opinion and, when we’re wrong, the opportunity to apologize.
None of this is free though.
And none of this is safe.
We waste so much time, so much breath berating one another, hating one another, and baiting one another into petty arguments that we miss the bigger picture. We divide ourselves by color, by creed, by religion, by class, by politics, and by every other thing we can think of but never work as hard to unite. Yes, we do unite but it’s usually against something or someone, an ‘enemy’, never because we see an inherent beauty in one another. Never because we see value in our species and this world.
But this is Man.
This is the animal Man.
We can fight our nature, and evolve it, but the core is still there – a pack-minded beast that will fight to protect itself and its tribe. A carnivore that is more than happy to use its teeth to survive. We are beautiful because of this but we don’t embrace the better parts of our nature, the parts that unite us with the tribes of the earth as one planet, and one world. We hunt, and so be it, but we hunt into extinction. We breed, and fine, but we breed to oversaturation. And we migrate but we migrate until we become conquerors. We remove ourselves from the natural order in order to dominate it and as such have our hands around this world’s throat.
But here, in America, freedom is not free.
Nor should it be.
The problem is that the biggest threat to our freedom is us.
Not a new concept or new idea, but one that we just can’t get past.
We so readily forget the things we are founded upon when the seas of the world grow turbulent. We forget that we are a nation of immigrants that came seeking shelter and hope, invading a new land without being asked to come, without asking if we may come, and not caring for those that were here before us. We are reformed conquerors that forget our better natures far too often. We are more than happy to raise a club when threatened, or we feel we may be threatened, but rarely are we willing to extend a hand in order to ease a tension. But saying that there will always be those that hate us, for our lifestyles, for our views, for our cancerous culture which pushes its way across the world, and for the very thing we hold most dear – our freedom. Some people you cannot befriend. Some people you cannot save. Some you cannot change. Some people will always hate you because hate is all there is to them. Maybe they were born to it, maybe they were raised by it, maybe they found it themselves. It would be a wonderful thing to be able to save everyone from their hateful heart but Man is an animal, and it is a beast, and sometimes the only thing it can do to make itself known is to burn the world around it and smash the lives around it. War and violence is in our nature just as love and compassion are and we make the choices each day on which gods we choose to follow. Some hearts will not be tamed though and some wars cannot be avoided.
Blood will wash ashore.
Bodies will drop.
Sorrow will spread.
This is the nature of Man.
But we can change this nature. We can evolve.
We can change our nation.
We can rise above.
We will always be a target for the very things we are but we can never let the fires of the world force us to close ourselves off to being global citizens or part of this human species. We must be vigilant. We must be careful. We must sacrifice some of our lesser freedoms in order to maintain the greater ones. We must never close our hearts to those in need though. Not here or anywhere else.
As frightening as it is, we must embrace the world, even as it burns around us.
America is not one nation.
It is all nations.
We must find our connections and work to end the horrors within our borders and work to help those suffering the horrors outside of our borders. We must use reason and logic to guide us, not fear and hate. We cannot keep jumping at every shadow and chasing every enemy, pushing ourselves into infinite war. And all of this is easy to write, is easy to think, and is easy to want. It takes no courage to write how others should act. It takes courage to believe that we are better than this. It takes courage to believe that this world can be better than it is. And it takes courage to reach our hands out to one another before we raise our fists and voices.
We will never be safe.
Not any of us.
Not as long as we live in fear and hate and act out of both.
We must be vigilant, we must be brave, and we must be smart. We must give away some smaller freedoms to protect the larger freedoms. This is a smaller, more dangerous world now and we cannot let our own arrogance become our noose. But we also cannot become a weaponized nation that cannot trust itself, let alone the world. We are in dark times and we need to change our course. We need to protect our citizens. We must welcome those in need. We must walk a line that few countries on this earth are willing to and we have no choice because that is what we do. The very things we love this nation for are the very things others love about us and the things some hate us for having.
We will never be safe because freedom isn’t safe and never has been. Standing up for your beliefs and liberties and standing for the beliefs and liberties of others is not safe. Doing the right thing is not safe. Being American is not safe. But if it was safe it wouldn’t be so valuable. So important. And together we can stand against the horrors of the world and one another. Together we can stand and fight the true enemies – poverty, hunger, abuse, and hate.
I am not a fool.
I am not an idealist.
I am a realist and I say all of this because we have no choice.
This is a dangerous world and we cannot act as if it is not, but we also cannot act as hostages to an unseen captor.
We can work together to make our nation better, and stronger, or we can continue to fight ourselves, and squabble over petty matters and personal choices that don’t affect all of us. We have to make the conscious decision to stand for what this country has stood for – life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness – or we will tumble into a dark time where we are prisoners to our borders, held captive by ghosts of fear and phantoms of horror.
We won’t be safe…but we will be free.