Before we watched the debates Monday night, we got to have a discussion at dinner about Self-Control. We were talking about how if we are able to control ourselves, no one needs to jump in and control us for us. This came, of course, after some rough-housing between the boys, and my husband having to step in and keep them from doing real damage at one point.
I got to use one of my mom’s all-time favorite quotes, which I’ve heard throughout my lifetime.
Freedom is the luxury of the self-disciplined.
Mom gets worked up about it whenever she goes over a speed bump. The idea is that if we were able to discipline ourselves to drive slowly through a parking lot, they wouldn’t have to come along and put in speed bumps.
I get the one version of the quote – the one that my mom is seeing with speed bumps. And I know I learned, as a kid, about all sorts of other parts of this discussion. I think I have forgotten much, and now that I’m raising kids of my own, I’m having to look at lots of things through new lenses and see them more clearly.
There are so many parts of the puzzle of freedom. There are those who would limit one groups opportunities and freedoms because they don’t agree with their view of religion. That is one of the main reasons there are wars going on all around the world, because people want to force their religious ideas on one another to the point they go after an entire population with guns. That is crazy.
I have heard this quote all my life. I agree with it in a certain way. It goes along with long-entrenched ideas, the kinds of things that still pop out of my mouth because the timing seems right to suddenly share my mom’s favorite quote. As I was typing it this morning, it was playing on my conscience differently than it ever has before.
The people fighting for freedom from despots in various places around the world, the women fighting to be able to get an education just like men, the minority religions crying our for a chance to worship without being attacked – are these people somehow not self-disciplined enough to have earned the luxury of freedom?
It is sad to me that something that seems, on one hand, to be such a simple idea, to have basic freedoms, can be so complicated. This is a big deal to me. This is one of those moments where I am seeing things differently than I’ve ever seen them before, and I feel a little bit small and lost and need reinforcement.
I just pulled up a Google Search for the Bill of Rights – because I wanted a refresher course just now on what our Constitution tells us we have a Right to, what Freedoms we should be able to enjoy as Americans: the freedom to speak, the freedom of press, the freedom to gather, the freedom to protest, the freedom to keep and bear arms, the freedom to maintain the border of your own house – that no soldier, in a time of peace, will be quartered in any house, without the consent of the owner, the freedom from unreasonable search and seizure, the freedom to have due process in a court of law, the freedom to a trial by jury, and to a speedy trial, freedom from being tried again for the same thing once a jury of peers has tried the case, freedom from excessive bail and cruel and unusual punishment.
And then, because I wanted to see the context for the next line, I looked up the Declaration of Independence:
We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. –That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, –That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness.
No. Freedom is not a luxury. It is a Right, and it has come at great cost every time one form of government or another has tried to keep it from their people. The language here is so beautiful to me. The words are so powerful and the sentiment so noble. It is easy to gloss over the part that every single one of the men who signed their name to the Declaration of Independence knew that they were signing their death warrant. They had made themselves enemies of the establishment, and there was a price on their heads. War would come, and many many lives would be lost. Blood would be shed, innocents would die trying to establish this Freedom.
I think it is easy to get caught up in the beauty of language, and forget that the very idea of Freedom is one people fight and die to get a little taste of for themselves, their children, and their country. Currently, in the world, much is at stake. I think it is important to remember that.
We in America can tend to be isolated from the struggles going on all around the world, because we are protected, because our freedoms are so valiantly guarded. We still shop and accessorize, swap recipes and share hilarious pictures of our kids, we do home decorating and amazing holiday DIY projects. Yet, in multiple places around our globe, the battle cry of Freedom is all people think about day and night, amid the bombings of their towns, amid the devastation. Little wins along the way still send them headlong into danger for a little taste of Freedom.
3 thoughts on “Freedom and Luxury and Self-Discipline”
Great post, very thought-provoking. The very word “freedom” has been so bastardized the past couple of years that it makes me shudder sometimes. You’ve reframed it, and I thank you.
The Declaration of Independence guarantees Life, Liberty and the PURSUIT of happiness. It doesn’t guarantee happiness. That’s an important distinction, and one I need to keep reminding myself of. (I hate ending sentences with prepositions, but wow would that ever be a convoluted sentence if I wrote it properly!)
Freedom is different for each of us. I think the ultimate freedom is to live in a world where my (religion, prejudices, preferences) may not be imposed on you. I hope, someday, we get there.
I agree with your mom about the speed bumps! But the maniacs drive crazy here in the parking lots and have a disregard for others. It makes me crazy. Freedom is taken for granted by many who have it, and craved by those who don’t have it. Enjoyed your article very much. I go to Colonial Williamsburg in VA on vacation sometimes (4 times so far) and there is nothing more sturring than to hear them read the Declaration of Independance out loud.
That would be an awesome experience to hear The Declaration of Independence read aloud by a professional! Thank you for commenting!