Tom Foreman | BIO
Reporter's Note: President Obama, like many presidents, likes talking about freedom. I, like many lunatics, like writing letters to people in power.
Dear Mr. President,
I’ve been thinking about a phrase that I heard tossed around a lot amid this whole Egypt uprising. In one form or another, it was this. “We just want freedom.” Some of my media colleagues joined the call. “These protesters are making a determined stand for freedom.”
Freedom. Americans love this word. We love it like we love purple mountains, Springsteen (especially during the Born to Run and Darkness on the Edge of Town years), democracy, and Glee. In the broader context of world conflicts, however, I find it a troubling word because I’m not sure if the globe agrees on its definition.
It’s like that moment in Princess Bride when Vizzini says yet again, that an event is “inconceivable.” Inigo Montoya says, “You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.”
Freedom. For most of us I suppose it means life, liberty, the pursuit of happiness - that sort of thing. Freedom to have a job, buy a house, get a dog, go to church…or not. Sing in your car with the windows open. Vote. Travel. Buy things and commit to cell phone contracts. In other words, to make our own choices and sell off our freedom one minute at a time.
But don’t you think the great oppressors of the world, whether individuals or groups, have valued freedom too? Think of even the worst tyrants in history. They wanted the freedom to dictate the terms of their society, to amass great wealth, to command armies, and to wield power like a truncheon.
Freedom, defined differently by different groups, was the case made both for and against slavery for crying out loud.
So as I watched the struggles overseas, I found myself wishing I would hear a lot less about people wanting freedom, and a lot more about what they intend to do with that freedom. Because that is the proof of pedigree. That is the question we all must be asking now. It is relatively easy to defeat oppressors with talk of freedom. It is a much greater challenge to not then become a new oppressor, from which people will soon enough want freedom again.
I hope your weekend is enjoyable. Is it just me, or are you dying for a little spring to come our way? I appreciate the seasons and usually like winter, but not so much this year.
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