There is an annual celebration of Americas freedom every year on the 4th of July. People engage themselves in picnics, barbecues, and fairs all in the observance of the biggest day in the American calendar. The media is also on the frontline to declare that it is the day to celebrate our freedoms. But the question is if we understand what it meant by freedom? Is the issue of liberty a myth based on unstable foundations, or can we say that we have freedom? This paper is an examination of different perspectives of freedom from various points in history.
Why America is not free
In my opinion, I would say that America is not as free as one would think. One of the reasons that would make me have this view is the sheer number of laws that the country has. America has the most number of legislation as compared to any country in the world. The higher the number of laws, the higher the restrictions on people to perform acts. This directly translates to the reduced freedoms of the individuals in the United States. This is also known as the chilling effect, where people are afraid of exercising their rights for fear of legal action (Greene, 2009). The number of laws in the United States as compared to other countries has been described as overkill because of the unnecessary restrictions that it puts on the people in the state (Greene, 2009).
The growth of the US government could also be something that could be a cause of concern. With the exponential development of the government, there is going to be the need for more controls and the imposition of higher taxes something that limits the ability of the government to function properly without restricting the rights of the citizens. This is contrasted to the governments that were present in the 1800s which were small and adopted a laissez-faire approach to leadership, allowing for economic growth, more freedoms, and fewer tax burdens. Increased governmental size means that there is going to be less financial freedom on the side of the citizenry as it is necessary to cater for the growing needs of the government costs through taxation (Turley, 2014).
The issue of terrorism has further brought to light issues of concern for the plight of freedom in the United States. There are now sanctioned extra-judicial killings happening, where US citizens are assassinated for their links to terrorist groups. Anwar al-Awlaqi was one such US citizen that was murdered because of their ties to terrorist groups. This is hypocritical considering that the US is usually on the front line of criticisms to nations such as Nigeria and Iran for extra-judicial killings perpetrated by the respective governments (Turley, 2014).
Furthermore, there is the application of arbitrary justice processes, where the US attorneys can decide what manner of criminal charges can be brought against a person and in what court. This has been criticized as an exercise of excessive powers on the part of the government to the detriment of citizens. Debates have been in the public domain for a while concerning the powers of the US attorney in indicting anyone for any number of crimes. The amount of discretion that these officials have makes them unbound by the laws that govern the country. Furthermore, they have the powers to make charges and plea bargaining deals behind closed doors so that there is no transparency to the public. This is a further issue of concern when considering the nature of the freedom in the United States, especially such rights as the access to information (Davis, 2015).
As seen above, different times in history had different meanings for freedom for the American people. Over history, there have been iconic leaders whose fight for freedom has seen different outcomes. Some of these leaders include Nathaniel Bacon, Anthony Johnson, Abigail Adams and Sir Edmund Andros. The different views of freedom for these individuals are sampled.
Freedom according to Nathaniel Bacon
At the height of Native American attacks on the Virginian settlements, Nathaniel Bacon was tired of the leadership that Governor Berkeley was providing. Despite the presence of ulterior motives to his rebellion, Bacon was one who was devoted to seeing the security of settlers in the Virginian protectorate could be assured (Thompson, 2006). Providing a personal army to this effect, Bacon saw it fit to make known his demands of security to the governor through various ways. For him, freedom was the ability to trade equally with the native American people because of his business in fur trading. Additionally, some frontiersmen concerns were being dismissed in the course of the governor dealing with issues (Forner, 2009).
As such, it required that one person stands up for the rights of the Virginian people in the face of complacent leadership. Bacon saw the idea of freedom as the ability to live in peace without fear of being come upon by ruthless Native Americans. Therefore, his campaign was merely for the expansion of the colony westwards to quell the attempts of the Native Americans in attacking the settlers something that had caused the death of many in the region.
Freedom for Anthony Johnson
Anthony Johnson was a black slave who was sold as an indentured servant in the early 1600s. As a man who finished his indentured servitude, he became eligible for the ownership of property in Virginia. He thus became a property owner who also hired indentured servants on his farm. In the course of his lifetime, he was engaged in various suits that differentiated the status of black and white indentured servants. For him, freedom was about the equal treatment of black and white servant holders in a country where there was no differentiation between the black and white, so long as they all paid their indenture debts (Foner, 1975).
At this time, Johnson engaged in landowning practices and fought for his right to own the indentured servants that he had. Furthermore, his ability to argue out before the courts despite being illiterate and his ability to argue out for the justice of black men in the courts made him an iconic figure for the representation of freedom. He is thus considered the patriarch of black Americans in property ownership.
Freedom for Abigail Adams
Abigail Adams, who was a future first lady, had another thought of liberty in mind. With the nation going to become independent, her concern was for the rights of women in the new nation and their place in the socio-economic structures. In her opinion, there was urgent need to consider the people who comprised half of the countrys population in the drafting of laws to avoid a situation where there would be male tyranny overrunning the government. She asserted that where there were no laws to determine how they would be considered in government, there would be a revolution in which there would be no laws to cater for the rights of women as agitated in such an action (History, 2015). While the rights of women were not recognized till the 1900s, her fight for womens freedoms was more open, but only as the communication between spouses.
Freedom for Sir Edmund Andros
As governor for many states in the North American colonies, Andros had a differentiated style of leadership. To him, freedom meant that the people would follow the proper direction of one who knew what was best for them. As such, his rule was seen as authoritarian and autocratic in nature. Therefore, he gathered a lot of enemies in the course of his life because of his practices. Despite the growth that came to the people where he served, there was discontentment at his methods of achieving freedom and thus frequent uprisings against his rule (Lustig, 2002).
Comparison of Freedom Concept
As one would see, all the freedom icons had something in common their drive. Despite different needs, the meeting of those needs was considered as freedom for them. Furthermore, the effect of such a need was going to be wholesome to the society in which the icons were located. Nonetheless, the ideologies of freedom have varied with the different people, ranging from women inclusion to tax reliefs, citizen safety, and ownership of property. Freedom thus seems to have a subjective view to it with a moralist attitude of benefiting the majority of the people. The answer to the question: is America free can thus not be found by the analysis of a single person or groups perspective but by the collective application of societal rules of engagement.
Davis, A. (2015). Federal Proscutors Have Way Too Much Power. Retrieved April 1, 2016, from The New York Times: http://www.nytimes.com/roomfordebate/2012/08/19/do-prosecutors-have-too-much-power/federal-proscutors-have-way-too-much-powerFoner, S. (1975). History of Black Americans: From Africa to the emergence of the cotton kingdom. Westport, Connecticut: Greenwood Press.
Forner, E. (2009). Give Me Liberty!: An American History. New York: W.W. Norton & Company.
Greene, A. (2009). Banish the Libel chill. Retrieved April 1, 2016, from The Guardian: http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/libertycentral/2009/oct/15/simon-singh-libel-laws-chiropracticHistory. (2015). 31 March 1776: Abigail Adams asks her husband to remember the ladies. Retrieved April 1, 2016, from history.com: http://www.history.com/this-day-in-history/abigail-adams-asks-her-husband-to-remember-the-ladiesLustig, M. (2002). The Imperial Executive in America: Sir Edmund Andros, 16371714. New Jersey: Fairleigh Dickinson University Press.
Thompson, P. (2006). The Thief, the Householder, and the Commons: Languages of Class in Seventeenth-Century Virginia. William and Mary Quarterly , 253-80.
Turley, J. (2014). 10 Reasons The U.S. Is No Longer The Land Of The Free. Retrieved April 1, 2016, from jonathanturley.org: https://jonathanturley.org/2012/01/15/10-reasons-the-u-s-is-no-longer-the-land-of-the-free/.
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