The Land of Freedom?
Freedom is one of the cornerstones of America and its most prized possession. It can mean different things to different people, depending on who you ask and on the level of freedom that they already have. But can we actually be free?
The colonization, the American Revolution, the Civil War say yes. However, despite all the efforts and numerous civil rights movements and revolutions, we seem to be so lulled in the false sense of freedom that we “have” that we don’t notice how much of it we are lacking. Isaiah Berlin described what exactly means to be free from others and to be your own master, as well as the grey area between these two. Being given complete and undeniable freedom may sound like a dream come true, but Berlin highlights that “this kind of ‘natural’ freedom would lead to social chaos” (Berlin, 1958), therefore, imposing certain rules and restrictions, in this sense, cannot be viewed as an obstruction of one’s freedom when it benefits the society as a whole. However, there is the question of the extent and severity of those boundaries. After the abolishment of slavery, for example, African Americans were at last considered as equals to their white fellow citizens – but only in theory. In reality, they continued to be marginalized and oppressed through the enforcement of laws such as Black Code or Jim Crow laws, because the government believed that such infringement of rights was in their best interest. However, certain laws and restrictions could never be seen as justifiable, because ignoring individuals’ wishes, needs, and opinions causes “a monstrous impersonation” (Berlin, 1958). On the other hand, Tocqueville (1835) noted that, in democratic nations such as America, people are often inclined to hand over power to a central authority if it meant that they would have equality elsewhere. So, it appears that the willingness of people to dismiss the authority of their equals and surrender their independence and rights to a far more powerful entity surpasses their need for true freedom.
What about the press? Its main purpose is to use its freedom to serve both society and its citizens by pointing out the injustices and informing the public. Because we all want the truth, and well-researched information, assuming that that is what we’re getting but failing to realize that we don’t always know what we are getting. Milikh (2017) noted in his article that, no matter what, the press always follows its own agenda, and that is “maintaining its superiority over the public mind.” Even Pupin so perfectly described the public as “a child which loves to listen to fairy-tales” (1923), and that is still true, almost 100 years later. With the globalization and more and more omnipresence of media in our lives, we turned it into “a mechanism through which the public oppresses itself” (Milikh, 2017) by remaining completely oblivious of the influence that it has over us and allowing it to make us believe in the false narrative that we are presented with. For example, the vast majority of the population succumbed to the mass hysteria that was created by the media coverage of the coronavirus.
Even though the freedoms are guaranteed by the First Amendment, it takes very little to convince people that they have it all. We are losing in this fight to preserve and maintain the opportunity to think for ourselves instead of being heavily influenced by others’ words and actions. We are slowly surrendering our rights for which the generations had fought so hard, either willingly or unwillingly – and what is even worse, we don’t seem to miss it.
I hereby confirm that this work is solely the result of my own independent scholarly work and that if any ideas, text passages, or diagrams from books, papers, the Web, or other sources have been copied, paraphrased, or in any other way used, all references – including those found in electronic media – have been clearly acknowledged and fully cited.
• Berlin, I. (1958). The Two Concepts of Liberty. PDF of inaugural lecture, University of Oxford. https://ia902908.us.archive.org/27/items/Two_Concepts_Of_Liberty_Isaiah_Berlin_1958.pdf/Two%20Concepts%20of%20Liberty_%20Isaiah%20Berlin_%201958.pdf
• Milikh, A. (2017, April 4). Franklin and the Free Press. The Heritage Foundation. https://www.heritage.org/american-founders/commentary/franklin-and-the-free-press
• Pupin, M. (1949 ). From immigrant to inventor. New York, London: Charles Scribner’s Sons. [Online book]. Internet Archive. https://archive.org/details/fromimmigranttoi00pupi/page/n7/mode/2up
• Tocqueville, A. (1840). Democracy in America: Vol. 2. http://xroads.virginia.edu/~Hyper/DETOC/ch4_03.htm