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  • Writer's pictureArmstrong Williams

Armstrong Williams: What is freedom?

PUBLISHED: April 8, 2024 |

Freedom is a concept as old as time itself. It’s something that resonates deep within the human spirit, and that manifests itself throughout history in countless struggles for liberation. But it is also fleeting and can be taken far more quickly than it can be given. As Ronald Reagan famously proclaimed, “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.”

Freedom, to me, is the right of self-determination and human dignity. It is a life free from the perils of bondage, both physical and mental, and from the fear of being punished by another for living autonomously.

Freedom is a bird that soars above the constraints and limitations of oppressive governments and people. It symbolizes the limitless capacity of the human spirit when liberated from oppressive rule. Like a bird in flight, freedom propels itself forward with grace and vigor by harnessing the winds of hope. It is the driving force that inspires people to pursue their dreams.

The United States is a country that has prioritized the ideal of freedom in its system of government. Its Constitution was drafted with liberty rather than restriction in mind. To ensure that there is always a balance of power and that no one branch of government, whether legislative, judicial or executive, can exert undue influence over the people, our three branches of government were established. Our great Bill of Rights does just that too, a document listing rights of the people, not restrictions. It lists our most fundamental rights, like the freedom of speech, the freedom to practice whichever religion you choose, the freedom to peaceable assembly, the right to bear arms, the right against self-incrimination, the right to a jury of one’s peers, and more.

We are a nation that has survived world wars, that has fought back against foreign powers and emerged victorious, all in the name of freedom. Countless Americans have died defending our soil and the freedoms that it promises. We are a nation that endured the worst of racism, slavery, separate but equal accommodations, and more. But we overcame it to become a nation that judges people “by the content of their character” not the color of their skin, as Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. stated.

When Ronald Reagan proudly proclaimed “Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall!” it was in the name of freedom, it symbolized the victory over oppressive regimes. It was not just the physical destruction of a barrier, but the ideological triumph of liberty over authoritarianism. It is so fondly remembered because it reminds the American people of humanity’s power and inherent desire for freedom and self-determination.

However, much of that has been lost on the American people. Today, freedom is a concept that has been long forgotten. The American people have unwittingly become mentally bound and subjected to the subconscious horrors that coincide with a lack of freedom.

We forget what it was like to be oppressed, to be on the verge of losing all hope. New generations of Americans have no concept of what it means to be enslaved, to be forcibly divided by race, or to be oppressed by a foreign government. It is a past that we should never revert to, yet the concepts of freedom that were gained through struggle are ones that are being quickly forgotten.

The American people have it really good, yet, in this comfort, there is a growing divide that threatens the very essence of what freedom stands for. The unity of the American people, which was once a marker of our prosperous nation, has now completely eroded as a result of highly partisan politics and has devolved into a show of “who can make the other side look worse?” We are not slaves any longer, but we have become enslaved to these divisions that are holding us back from allowing us to achieve the true potential of America.

Americans must never forget the struggles that were endured by those who came before us to achieve the freedom that we have today, and we must never take our freedom for granted. The spirit of freedom should not just preserved in historical monuments or in the actions of famous leaders, it should be carried in the daily choices of ordinary Americans who believe in preserving a nation that values democracy, equality, and justice for all.

Armstrong Williams (; @arightside) is a political analyst, syndicated columnist and owner of the broadcasting company, Howard Stirk Holdings. He is also part owner of The Baltimore Sun. This column is part of a weekly series written from “The Owner’s Box.”

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