I first wrote the post below in 2019. I still agree with it, and I thought I’d bring it back for another go.
The theme of the post is freedom–mostly, how we respond to the way other people assert their freedoms. It feels particularly relevant to me after the last few weeks in this country, with literal freedoms being taken from our citizens, to address this directly.
The beauty and promise of this nation is not conformity. It’s not even agreement. It is freedom, even when our neighbor’s use of that freedom makes us uncomfortable, or we fervently believe something different.
In fact, I would go further. If our neighbor’s version of freedom causes us to judge them, maybe that’s a clue that it’s time to look inward.
Today’s the day folks in the U.S. celebrate our freedom from the tyranny of English rule. July 4, the signing of the Declaration of Independence.
I think a lot of us are uneasy with freedoms; we like to be told what to do, how and when to do it. We want to fit in, so having the freedom to decide on our own is unsettling. There are no lines to color inside.
Because we aren’t sure how to navigate our own freedoms, we’re sometimes super uneasy when we look at how other people navigate theirs.
“She shouldn’t wear that.”
“Why do they have that in their shopping cart?”
“He shouldn’t let his kid act that way.”
It’s as though witnessing their freedom to do something (wear that, eat this, spend money on the other) calls into question how we are using our own freedom.
Justin works at my local dry cleaner. He has a full beard, is about 5’10”, and wears long yellow fingernails and sometimes a floral skirt. I’ll admit I was taken aback the first time I came in and saw him in a sparkly necklace and a blouse. Justin is using his freedom to dress how he wants in a way that is uncommon in U.S. culture—he has blown the lines of the coloring book right off the page.
Instead of feeling threatened by how Justin uses his freedom, I can look at it as an invitation to rethink what freedom is in these United States.