Freedom cannot be protected or enforced at the end of a barrel

On my run today I was absolutely focused on this idea. Since Sunday people have been posting so much of the right and wrong of what Colin Kaepernick did and there’s just so much that’s so wrong about almost all of the push back. While I find the protest of sitting out the anthem perfectly right and acceptable if you feel that the country is not living up to the ideals the anthem and flag supposedly stand for, I’m going to try and avoid that here. What I want to address is the fact that freedom, and I’ve said this before and I’ll keep saying it until we get it, does not come at the end of a gun, the tip of a spear. It is not protected through violence, nor the threat of violence. If anything it is impeded by even the most well-meaning of these things. I believe this is a perfect example of such a case.
No government, regent, monarch, representative, dictator. No religion, pastor, priest, imam, rabbi, prophet, god. No single entity, outside the one acting, grants any other being, anywhere in the universe “freedom”. No predecessor, no ancestor, nobody gives me freedom, nobody gives you freedom, nobody gives Colin Kaepernick freedom. Freedom is not a gift, it is not something to be handed out, and learned in songs, or in documents, books, or handed down through laws. Freedom is a natural state of being. Regardless of where you think the origin of nature resides, it is 100% natural. Anything given to you by another being is not real freedom. Because if something can be given, it can be taken away, and freedom can never be taken away in any form. You can hide and disguise your freedom, but you are always free.
One may argue, “but if someone takes your life they have taken your freedom.” No, they have not, they have taken my life. They will never have my obedience to their doctrine if I disagree. Why do you equate death with an end of freedom? If you’re afraid your message hasn’t been heard already, then what does it matter if nobody still hears you? If your message has been heard, then it has been heard, you don’t need to keep repeating yourself, hopefully your death, because of the exercise of your freedom will encourage others to pick up your cause. Even within the most oppressive regimes, people will exercise their rights as human beings, when they feel they need to. Look at the case of the Kreisau Circle. There are so many examples just from World War 2.
Let’s look at a hypothetical. Let’s say, for argument’s sake, nobody ever opposed Hitler militarily and Germany took over the world. Would all the Jewish people be extinct? Would all the Romani? Would all the LGBT? Would playwrights and composers, painters and sculptors not be making art? Or would there be people resisting? Would there be people helping those he looked to exterminate? It would be horrible, but freedom would remain. It would be dangerous to be free, more dangerous than it is now. Any regime can outlaw anything they want, they can try and take any freedom they want, they can point a loaded gun to your head and demand you stop. The only time your freedom is taken is when you obey. When you value your life more than your freedom.
Yes, people have gone through great lengths in this world to make others obey. And it is true and it is possible to have it happen. Patrick Henry, revolutionary and slave owner, famously said, “Give me liberty or give me death!” Ironic that such a famous line was uttered by a man who viewed other human beings as property. Surely, if any of his slaves ever said the same, he would have had them put to death. But what of that? What of slavery, surely you say there, people have used violence to keep others from being free. Well surely they did, and many other instances throughout history. Yet, the drive to express one’s freedom persisted. How many monuments are there to so many of these? Instead we erect statues and plaques to those who would put down these acts. Robert E. Lee is seen by many in the US and even in other parts of the world as a hero. Yet he was instrumental in leading the US Army to stop the Harper’s Ferry Slave Revolt of 1859. How many reading this know names like Gabriel Prosser (I know I’ve shared the awesome song about him before), Denmark Vessey, Nat Turner? These men were fighting for their freedom, they weren’t waiting for the United States Government to give it to them. Unfortunately, the very Army of the nation that proclaimed “All men are created equal” was often the force used to put an end to their revolts. Countless slaves throughout the ages have been murdered, beaten, raped, tortured into submission, but that flame of freedom, that desire to escape their bonds has never diminished. No government gives them that, no police force protects that. In fact, we can see, just in the one collection of slave revolt synopses on wikipedia, often police forces, militias, armies, are used to enforce oppression on those striving to exercise their freedom.
I do not fear a government, a religion, a lunatic fringe, or even just someone on the street. If I have something to say then I will say it, if I need to do something then I’ll do it. If my life is forfeit because of it, so be it. If I am wrong, then the weight of history will wash away my trace, but if I was right, my idea will burn on, and the next generation will pick up my cause and keep the fight going. To be free is to live without fear. Not because you are hiding behind a shield of metal, plastic, fabric, and weapons. To not be afraid, because you know that your freedom is primary, that your freedom comes from within. No one can take that away, once you have resigned that you will act justly, even in the face of those who will try to deny you those actions. That is true freedom.
So why can’t we enforce this freedom on everyone? Think about how ridiculous that statement actually sounds. Just because some “holy man” may burn me at the steak, shoot me, stab me, whatever their choice of death would be, because I don’t act the way he wants, doesn’t mean I need protection from him. If he won’t listen to reason, if he kills me, he still does not kill my idea. He has not proven his ideas better, he has not proven mine worse. He has only proven he is either better at swaying the masses, he’s better at generating hatred or violence, or he’s better at enacting violence than I am. If anything, he’s proven he doesn’t have a good argument to begin with. If you’re only persuasion is to say, “Do as I say or die” or “Do as I say or leave” or “Do as I say or I’ll torture you,” you have proven your ideas hold no value. “But it’s impossible to change other people’s mind about things,” yes. But if you can only enforce your ideas through violence, or the threat thereof then all you’ve done is instill fear. But if you can talk to people about ideas, even if they don’t agree, and at least accept that you have a right to live as you wish, then that is a win. If the only answer to your ideas are violence and threats of exile and demands of silence, then they have no answer for you, and you’ve won.
Guns and violence do not protect ideas, do not protect rights. All too often they are used to suppress ideas and oppress rights. I do not care what someone’s intentions are when they pick up a weapon. What matters is the outcome. No side in any war has ever thought “Wow, what we’re doing is wrong, and someone should stop us!” After their side has lost, some may express remorse. Make excuses for their actions, “Well, I was a victim of peer-pressure.” Doesn’t matter, at the end of the day they didn’t think they were wrong to do it in the first place. If they did they’d throw down their weapons at the first sign of resistance.
So no police, no army, no war, no battle, has ever won me freedom. It has never protected freedom, and it never will. Freedom is a knowledge that one may act in accordance with his or her own conscience. Some people have a broken conscience, we have to figure out why. We have to look at them with compassion and love. Even if they show none. They are injured, they need help, and we have to approach it in that way. If they had a broken leg, or a severed hand, we would look at them with compassion. I do not fear another’s lack of compassion or conscience. I will always act according to what is in my heart. I don’t need a gun, a tank, a plane, a missile, a badge, a bullet-proof vest, a piece of paper, a law, a book, or anything else to tell me that I am free. I don’t need a government to grant me that idea. Freedom is self-inherent. It always has been, it always will be. The false equivalence between freedom and the acts of others granting, or protecting it for us must end. It is dangerous to keep propping up this idea that what Colin Kaepernick did is something that was allowed him because someone killed someone else in some foreign land, or because someone elected to become a police officer and stand around at the stadium and stop would-be attackers. What Colin Kaepernick did was afforded to him because he made a moral decision that what is happening in the United States today is wrong, and that he was in a place where he may be able to make a change, that he may be able to help secure more equal treatment for himself and for others like him across a nation that still claims all people are equal, yet continues to act in a different manner. His freedom to act and say what is in his heart, is afforded by his lack of fear. That lack of fear does not come from other people standing around him armed, it comes from the fact that he understands there are things in this world greater than him, and that what happens to him is inconsequential if he does not do something about the injustice he sees around him.
Freedom is free.

Have fun, keep running, and remember; if Gil can run then so can you!

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