What Is Freedom, And Where To Find It

I find the concept of freedom to be somewhat relative and misleading. Do we talk about freedom from shackles imposed by others? freedom from our self-imposed restrictions? Is there really such a thing as pure, unadulterated freedom? how much of a margin of error is there when we determine ourselves as free?

I believe it is unrealistic to expect someone who rids themselves from some form of shackles to consider themselves fully free. I believe that ignoring the marks of said shackles does nothing but perpetuate that lack of freedom. Do not get me wrong, I do believe that we are capable of releasing ourselves from pain, albeit sometimes temporarily, and achieve some level of freedom; however, the power in maintaining that freedom isn't in distancing ourselves from the oppressor, but in maintaining it/him/her/them as a constant reminder of where we have been, how they shaped us, and who we are capable of becoming.

History has taught us time and time again that, when we choose to forget and move on, the chains don't magically disappear; they linger in that space of vulnerability, waiting to pounce when our boundaries are compromised. When we ignore their existence, we empower them; when we choose to erase without eradicating, we give them permanency. The irony is not lost on me, but neither is its painful reality.

If we want to look at tangible examples, we can take the events that took place at the US Capitol on January 6, and see the flooding of antisemitic rhetoric and paraphernalia, with pictures and statements mentioning Auschwitz, and even government officials referring to imaginary space lasers controlled by Jewish philanthropists. We can look at the anti-Black Lives Matter movements that purposefully overlook the concept that BLM is meant to amplify voices that seek to end oppression. We can tell ourselves time and time again that America is rooted in the concept of freedom and that negative concepts such as antisemitism and racism have no place in this country, but at the same time, sit in our homes enjoying the privilege that those practices don't negatively affect us, so why should we speak up. 

I confess to often engage in self-sabotage when it comes to my own freedom. I live life from the starting point that we are all responsible for our own actions to some extent, even when our restrictions are shaped by outside forces. In my own life and own lived experiences, I have fallen on that same trap; things are fine, I am free, I don't need walls or others to protect me. I have learned the hard way that my own freedom has only been limited by my choices and inability to look at a complete picture, rather than editing parts of it that I choose to ignore because it is better that way than face the pain. 

I have learned that we do not live in a vacuum and that choosing to not speak for fear of retribution does nothing but strengthen the chains instead of eliminating them. We cannot choose to avoid the discomfort in hopes that it will seize to exist; we cannot choose to spare our village from our individual pain in hopes of stopping the spread of our own pain to others. When we laugh, we should let others laugh with us; when we cry, we should let others hold us. We cannot continue to ignore our own story in hopes that it will make it go away. We must choose to live as one community that recognizes each others joys and pains, and make their our own. Only then are we able to face those shackles, and let ourselves be free.


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