The Protests Prove Our Freedom Is an Illusion

Image via Reuters/Patrick T. Fallon

The United States is a country built of ideas. The major conflicts that have come up in our country’s relatively short lifespan come from a difference of opinion on what those ideas actually are.

To some, it’s an inherent gift of freedom. Nobody can tell you what to do. And if they try, you have the right to voice your opinion and disagree without fear of retribution.

To others, our country represents opportunity. Everyone that stands on American soil is to be offered a chance at achieving the sacred American Dream — an unobstructed path to your own personal happiness built on a foundation of hard work and dedication.

But no matter what your particular viewpoint may be on the ideas that make up the USA, there is purported to be an undercurrent of fairness. This is why we are so cavalier about our support of democracy over socialism. Everyone supposedly gets the exact same opportunities, and it’s up to you how you make use of them.

But that’s not true.

These basic tenets that inform the worldview of so many Americans don’t actually exist. America is not guided by fairness. We do not all have the same opportunities. And you aren’t truly free. But our culture of billboards and gigantic portions have helped us ignore this glaringly obvious fact. Keep us fed and distracted by shiny objects and we won’t care if you mine the soil directly beneath our houses and refuse to share the wealth.

Many of us remain willfully unaware of the inequities inherent in this tug-of-war we call a society. The recent protests have forced us to stare this fact in its vacant, dead eyes. They have removed the choice between acknowledging the struggles we normally ignore and analyzing how we’ve unknowingly supported it our entire lives.

Anybody who proclaims Freedom as their justification for doing anything is a selfish asshole.

Freedom is a marketing ploy at best. A justification for selfish behavior. It has become unfortunately ingrained in our culture to the point where it has become more of a symbol than a word.

What does freedom mean? Dictionary.com defines it as:

“The power or right to act, speak, or think as one wants without hindrance or restraint.”

Does this look like freedom to you?

The protests are being met with a reaction that is a perfect example of why the protests started in the first place. And Trump’s threat to activate the military to quell the protests is only going to deepen the wound. It also goes against every aspect of our symbol of Freedom that we’re supposed to universally treasure.

But the fact is that we don’t actually want freedom for everybody. We want freedom for ourselves. A million islands with complete autonomy want to strip their surrounding islands of free choice because it could possibly impinge on their choices in the future.

There’s a difference between stupidity and ignorance.

The ignorant simply don’t have adequate information. Stupidity requires a choice to ignore that information. A positive aspect of the protests is that they’re making it impossible for the willfully ignorant to maintain plausible deniability. Anybody with a television or internet access has direct access to information about the inequities in our society. It’s your choice to internalize this information or ignore it.

And many will ignore it. The blanket of Freedom gives them the option to do so. They might be stupid for ignoring the fact that black people have been systematically oppressed in this country for years up until this very minute, but that’s their choice.

That’s their version of Freedom.

Image via Reuters//Tom Brenner

Continued exposure is the best cure for this stupidity.

It’s difficult to ignore a fact when it’s screamed in your face every day. The problem is that we’re so distracted and so complacent in our every day lives that something cataclysmic needs to happen in order for us to truly pay attention.

So why are there protests? What good do they do?

The protests keep you engaged.

We’re raised on action films and fast food. We don’t have the capacity to dwell on an idea that isn’t directly in front of us.

Protests and the resulting riots are a product of anger and frustration. They result in damage that’s felt in very real ways by very real people. These are tragedies.

But an even bigger tragedy is living our lives hypnotized by quick shots of dopamine from social media likes and genetically-engineered food void of nutritional benefits while we step on the heads of a huge section of society to grab another bag of chips from the top shelf.

We need to pay attention.

We need to recognize the fact that this society we tout as the best in the world has severe flaws. We have to stop saying we’re the best country in the world because being alive is not a competition. And if it were, we wouldn’t be at the top of the platform.

These protests are the physical embodiment of this idea of Freedom we claim to have. Calling for their end or questioning their motives is the embodiment of the freedom we actually have: A mirage.

The protests are not a disgrace. They are not a hiccup. They are a realistic view of the society we have built for ourselves, but with the expensive clothing peeled back to reveal the damaged, withered body beneath.

And they are the best example of the ideas that form our identity as America that we’ve seen for decades.

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Just some guy trying to find his way in this crazy, mixed-up world.

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Josh Rank

Josh Rank

Just some guy trying to find his way in this crazy, mixed-up world.

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