As an American, “freedom” was probably one of the first words to enter my vocabulary. From the time we learn the pledge of allegiance and the Star Spangled Banner, we start to learn the great significance of freedom (or liberty)…kind of. We probably value this word as greatly we do “love.”
I was thirteen when 9/11 happened. I remember knowing something happened, but the faculty trying to follow the news was careful to shield it from us, despite it being obvious that they were hiding something from us. It wasn’t until the end of the day that one of my teachers finally explained to us what happened.
As I watched the news, I kept hearing “This is an attack on our freedom,” “Our freedom is being threatened,” and other similar statements. My naïve adolescent mind was angered. How could such cruel people dare threaten our freedom? And ever since we sent our first troops to Iraq, we’re constantly told that our brave men and women in service are defending our freedom. We Americans, including myself, very proudly honour and respect our service men and women, especially because they do what they do to “defend our freedom.”
But what does that mean? What is “freedom?” I’m not sure I’ve ever thought in much depth about the significance of freedom, because it’s such a natural part of my world—and blessedly so. 9/11 was a big scare for our nation. If you’re not already aware, I believe that we are the most compassionate nation. So, even if we were not directly affected by 9/11, we all knew someone in New York whom we checked in on during that time, we all knew someone who was supposed to be on one of those fateful flights, and/or we all knew someone who was directly affected by one of the greatest tragedies our nation has suffered, and their pain was our pain. As Americans do, we immediately bonded together and it felt exactly like someone had attacked my own blood.
Not until the recent events in Paris, which also hit close to home for me, did I really start to grasp what freedom means, at least to me. Not only has Paris been one of my favourite cities since I was a child, and the significance this city holds in my heart, for the last few months I’ve been planning what will be one of the most magical nights in my life—my wedding—which will take place in Paris. My fiancé is from Paris, and since we’re living and building our lives in the States, we thought it would be nice for his family if we got married in Paris. Plus, I didn’t want his mother to feel like I was taking her son away from him, so I thought this was important. As I started planning and inviting my closest friends and family, I started to feel a bit torn and sad about having the wedding there, only because I knew my grandmothers could not travel so far, and having the wedding in Paris is preventing some of my closest family and friends from attending. Still, I knew it was the right thing to do. Plus, the evening will be more than I could have ever imagined. It will be unforgettable.
When the attacks happened in Paris though, I immediately understood a greater reason for our wedding to be in Paris. It would only please IS if they could affect our happiness with fear, and that would be taking away my freedom—my freedom to live as joyfully and as full of love as I choose.
There are so many articles and opinions floating around on the internet about the recent events, and one person had said this was not an attack on Paris, nor France, nor Europe, but an attack on FREEDOM. I completely agreed with him, except I started to think about “freedom.” Why is this an attack on freedom? Perhaps he’s right, but it’s time I really understood what that means. Sometimes I feel as though that statement has become a natural response for reasoning when there’s a terrorist attack on “western countries.” It’s like when you say sorry too often, your apologies become less meaningful. So, after reading that I really started to contemplate what “freedom” truly means.
Shortly after the attacks, a couple international friendlies were canceled due to threats, and the world seemed to be in a bit of chaos—it still feels like that. Though many are standing together, we still can’t help but wonder, “where are they going to attack next?” That is an attack on freedom—not being able to play or enjoy a soccer game.
When TSA started upping its security after 9/11, I thought, “great.” I’d rather be safe than sorry, and I’m glad my government is taking measures to take care of us. It’s unfortunate that we have to go through this, and arrive at the airport 3 hours early, but if this is what it takes, then so be it. This time, however, as we’re all on high alert again, and in some places more so than others, the significance of heightened security finally sunk in. Suddenly, you have military patrolling where they never used to have to, and your freedom to move has been affected. I know that Brussels has essentially been on high alert since the attacks, and continues to be today. This beautiful city that I love so much and of which I have such fond memories, where typically Christmas joy is starting to take over the city and the main square, is now being threatened by terror. People are panicked and uneasy.
At a time when usually the world starts to feel a little warmer, no matter how cold the temperature is outside, we have to remind ourselves that our love and joy cannot be so easily taken away from us, because that would be allowing them to take our freedom.
I was recently asked if the recent events would change my plans to marry in Paris, and I’m afraid I was too quick to react. The question angered me. The very thought of it was upsetting. It never crossed my mind that I should think about that. I realized though, it should be natural that some might feel a little nervous, or scared; but while I understand those who may feel that way, I’m angry with the evil people out there in the world, who have inflicted such terror. That is affecting my freedom, and the freedom of those I love, because when you can’t live your life as you desire and do the things that should normally be enjoyed without any binds, that is an attack on freedom.
Freedom is a simple word with incredible significance. As Thomas Jefferson stated in the United States Declaration of Independence, “We hold these truths to be sacred & undeniable…that from that equal creation they derive rights inherent and inalienable, among which are the preservation of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness…” The Universal Declaration of Human Rights also says something simila. My freedom to fearlessly love, spread joy, dream, and travel the world is inherent and inalienable.
What does freedom mean to you?
BIG LOVE & HUGS