I was born into a white British family, so I kind of had priority boarding from my very first breath. Coming from that place of privilege makes it hard for me to write about freedom because I’ve never felt unfree. There has been only a few times in my life where access has been denied. I’ve never had to struggle for my freedom. Lucky me!
My whiteness sometimes makes me feel hypocritical when I gather with others to protest. My maleness, my skin colour and my affluence have made me shy about saying, in one way or another, “Life is not equitable!” It’s a moral conundrum, yet I delight in being free to join others to speak against injustice. Just because I have it good doesn’t absolve me from defending the rights of others. I believe we have a collective responsibility to make freedom ring true for all.
Freedom isn’t limited to what you can get out of life: It’s about how you can be. I enjoyed listening to an album called ‘Free To Be’ with my kids when they were young.
We would sing along and talk about what made us feel free to be ourselves. The LP promoted inclusion, acceptance and compassion for others. We discussed how freedom and responsibility must be linked if we cherish being together in community. Without a mutual understanding of freedom, souls do not flourish and life can feel like a cage. Our world is literally a zoo of our own making: It can be Eden or Hell. Our current climate crisis can attest to how humans have squandered their heritage through selfishness. When our individual freedoms become exclusive to our collective interests, we risk our ultimate freedom: To live.
The strangely titled Freedom Convoy that took over the downtown streets of Ottawa in 2022 has puzzled me. The very ability to protest is an indication that we live in a free society yet these truck weaponizing individuals promoted the notion that we were giving over our freedoms by wearing Covid masks. Nightly news showed folks bathing in a hot tub on a city street, police passing by, letting them off scot-free. That was amusing, but for me, they abused their right to free speech by screaming and cursing at their fellow Canadians. Our government created an inquiry into this whole sordid event to answer questions about its use of the Emergency Measures Act. My hope is not so much for retribution on these rowdy protesters but that Justice Paul Rouleau will outline a definition of freedom that we can all file for future reference.
Nelson Mandela was imprisoned for 27 years. The society he lived in had deadly ideas about what it means to be free. The white folk of South Africa enforced the rule of birth entitlement as the key to freedom. Mr. Mandela felt differently: ”For to be free is not merely to cast off one’s chains but to live in a way that respects and enhances the freedom of others.”