During this Fourth of July weekend I have been thinking a lot about freedom. This is such a profound concept that I hesitate to tackle it here, but I will try.
Perhaps the best way is by exploring the lack of it. I have been fortunate enough to have witnessed the effects of communism first-hand, and it was sobering. Three aspects of freedom – to speak, seek and serve — were clearly defined for me during these experiences.
Two years ago I visited China during my executive MBA course through the University of Missouri-Kansas City. Part of our tour of Beijing included a visit to Tiananmen Square. Walking through this beautiful and expansive place was sobering and haunting, knowing about the 1989 protest and massacre. Being there in person made the event more real, and I was struck with remorse about the lives and spirits that were crushed that day.
We were told not to talk or ask about the uprising. Sadly, Americans know more about this event than Chinese citizens do. This is because the Chinese government controls the information that people receive so as to preserve a positive image.
Also as part of my experience in China, I and a fellow student met with a social service group. We were doing research on health care in China, which is woefully lacking. This organization, an NGO (non-government organization), was illegal. Their mission was to send volunteer doctors and nurses to provide much needed health care to rural parts of China. Were they to be found out, those involved would most likely be imprisoned. The two young women (one a nurse, the other a recent college graduate) leading this effort were putting their lives and futures in jeopardy. The reason the government does not ‘allow’ non-profit, social service organizations to exist is because it would be embarrassing. Technically, the government provides for all needs of all their citizens. Therefore, there should be no need for assistance, though there clearly is.
So what is freedom? From my experiences, freedom to me means the ability to:
- speak freely and openly;
- have access to all the information I could ever want (Wikipedia or Google anyone?);
- question our government;
- and serve others in need,
…all without fear of repercussion.
The good news for the day is that we are a free country. My thanks go to all who protect this freedom every day.
Happy, happy Independence Day.