Do You Support the Reality of Freedom?

I spoke a little about the symbols of freedom a few weeks ago in my post, What’s Your Symbol of Freedom. I’m not advocating that we all see the symbols of freedom in the same way. And yet, the symbols stand for ideas or ideals that we supposedly believe and support. But do you support the idea of freedom? Do you support the reality of freedom? Here are a few quotes that speak to the ideas of freedom that I support. 

illustration of people of different colors holding hands around the globe--what I hope will be the reality of freedom

What Is Freedom

The Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines freedom as “the absence of necessity, coercion, or constraint in choice or action.” It’s both more and less.

Freedom is the emancipation from the arbitrary rule of other men.

Mortimer Adler

Freedom is not the right to live as we please, but the right to find how we ought to live in order to fulfill our potential.

Ralph Waldo Emerson

True freedom is always spiritual. It has something to do with your innermost being, which cannot be chained, handcuffed, or put into a jail.


For to be free is not merely to cast off one’s chains, but to live in a way that respects and enhances the freedom of others.

Nelson Mandela

Liberty, taking the word in its concrete sense, consists in the ability to choose.

Simone Weil
image of statue's chained hand--the reality of freedom for some is that freedom isn't real

What choices is Simone Weil talking about? If you must hide from an oppressor or if you must wear certain clothes or say (not say) certain things to avoid arrest, are you free? If you are struggling to keep a roof over your head or to put food on the table or if you can’t afford transportation to a job, or can’t afford education, are you free? What about if your skin color is different so you can’t vote or get a job or are treated as less equal, are you free? Those aren’t choices people make. No one chooses to fear for their life. No one chooses to be unable to meet their own needs. Am I saying we should give people everything for free? No. 

At What Cost Freedom

Freedom is never more than one generation away from extinction. We didn’t pass it to our children in the bloodstream. It must be fought for, protected, and handed on for them to do the same.

Ronald Reagan

We must be free not because we claim freedom, but because we practice it.

William Faulkner

If a nation expects to be ignorant and free, in a state of civilization, it expects what never was and will never be.

Thomas Jefferson

The sound of tireless voices is the price we pay for the right to hear the music of our own opinions.

Adlai Stevenson

Don’t be ignorant about the lack of choices that others have. Educate yourself. Figure out what you can do to help those others have those choices. Raise your voice. Lend a hand (Habitat for Humanity). Raise money. Give a damn. If you support the reality of freedom, then you know that the cost of freedom is to fight for it every day. So step out of your complacencies and do what you can. 

Why Talk About Freedom

Image of protestors being sprayed by police--the reality of freedom for some isn't really free

The whole world seems to live under the banner: “Freedom is wonderful—but only for me.”

Isaac Asimov

If you put a chain around the neck of a slave, the other end fastens itself around your own.

Ralph Waldo Emerson

The most common way people give up their power is by thinking they don’t have any.

Alice Walker

If we don’t believe in freedom of expression for people we despise, we don’t believe in it at all.

Noam Chomsky

Noam Chomsky has the right idea. But I would say if we don’t believe in freedom for people we despise, we don’t believe in it at all. Many people in the U.S.A and in other nations around the world have forgotten that freedom isn’t exclusive. We’ve forgotten that life, the world, isn’t a sound bite. That because you or I have freedom, others within our own nation do not. We have forgotten that if we believe in the reality of freedom people who espouse different ideas, who worship differently, who speak or dress differently—all deserve freedom.

The reality of freedom is that it is not equal. That we must fight every day to make it as equal as possible. For if we don’t believe, if we don’t support the reality of freedom for all, we don’t believe in it at all. 

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