Is it discipline, as recently adherents of former military members have started to proclaim? Maybe? Is it the right to determine your own path in life? Well, that’s a bit hard to do under the best circumstances; for example, much of the unconscious messaging in Marxism or critical race theory (a pseudo-Marxist school of thought) seems rather hopeless, for example, as the power structures of whiteness and/or the patriarchy are so entrenched it apparently will be an eternal struggle against them. And those are the narratives of liberation en vogue nowadays. So is freedom then the more classical, rationalist interpretation enshrined by New Deal Democrats via FDR – the freedom from want, freedom from fear, etc.?
My answer isn’t novel but I do think it is a bit of a spin: Freedom is the chance to choose our limits. And in reality, that means that most of us can be free, if we’d only so choose. We always will have limits, as that is the human condition. There will always be someone smarter, faster, stronger, prettier, happier, sweeter, harder-working… But much of what we believe to be our limits are unconsciously chosen by ourselves. And then, if we so choose, what we must then do is accept. My choice of enjoying beers on a weekly basis means I must accept having a much harder route toward a slimmer stomach. Our choice of living in a given state means that we may enjoy much gentler weather, but usually at the expense of higher taxes.
Some limits are imposed on us and are beyond our control. I can’t port my healthcare insurance that easily or cheaply beyond what is tied to my job, for example. Our form of government currently enrages many, with the common complaint that a vote in Wyoming shouldn’t count more than a vote in LA from an electoral perspective (I can’t help myself and must note that it’s pretty obvious most people in LA all have similar concerns but that doesn’t mean they should apply to the vastness of the entire country). But living here is a choice made – it is not necessarily easy to leave a country, but it is not impossible. So that is a limit chosen, although not all have the means to escape that said limit, so it’s a mix.
Today, on the Independence Day celebrated in the US, we should remember that our freedom is a chance to choose our limits. To choose where and how we want to live in large part, and which limits that we can’t control we must accept. And, perhaps, for those limits we have slowly begun to realize we have imposed on ourselves, to be reexamined.