The power of free expression has perhaps meant more to international democracy than any other tool. Never before has the benefit of having one’s viewpoints and opinions been so profoundly expressed as in the liberalization and deregulation of the press. America has, since its inception, benefited more from free expression than any other nation, owing both its foundation and longevity to the freedom to criticize, opine, and elaborate on subjects crucial to its well-being. Through the application of patient reason and analysis have come the developments of more than one kind of affront to tyranny; through the social sphere, the domestic sphere, and, of course, the political climate.
The rise and subsequent election of Donald Trump, however, raises concerns about the use and abuse of freedom of expression, especially where and how social media is used, whether or not the resultant democratization of social media is beneficial, and whether or not its liberal application bodes well for the future of our nation. Freedom of speech, for example, does not extend to instances of libel or slander, and in the modern internet climate, with so many voices and so many participants, false stories can be quickly and easily eradicated (though the necessity of class and high-mindedness is not always followed).
Social media as was seen back in the movement of the Arab Spring can foster enormous shifts in the modes of political expression of our time, and even in the politics themselves, as well as great breakthroughs in freedom of expression. Freedom, though it does not necessarily come with an instruction manual, is something that remains known and instinctual, almost as necessary to the indomitable human spirit as breathing air or drinking water. Freedom means one can do as his will and direction lead him, whether this be in personal, domestic, or social life. The idea of freedom of mind and choice has held up for centuries as a basic human right and, although seemingly paradoxical, a political necessity. Freedom means being sure that one’s neighbor is just as free, and that no mind is closed off and victim to ignorance, repression, or suffocation.
As Patrick Henry said, in a speech made before the Second Virginia Convention, “Give me liberty, or give me death!” freedom is a cause worth dying for, in direct proportion to the pains suffered for its attainment. No one can know the utter joy of liberation than the imprisoned, just like no one can know the yoke of tyranny like the truly free.
For a country that has prided itself as being, “the land of the free,” throughout the duration of its existence, America has itself gone through crises of repression and upheaval based on ideas, like racial-based slavery or ethnic discrimination, that don’t always make it to the history books. Its freedom seems to have, at times, been extended to a privileged elite, versus the majority, who have suffered said discrimination (wage, racial, cultural, gender-based) and bearing the brunt of its cost, labored and soldiered to make it what it is. For a full picture of what freedom means, voices from every religion and every race and every ethnicity must be considered, for without those voices our nation would forever be incomplete, missing huge chunks and puzzles of its own chimerical nature.
The balance of freedom is one that must be constantly replenished, and during our time of war and insurgency, leading to yet another increase in the towering and maddening defense budget, we find comfort in the knowledge that our soldiers, who pay the costs of war more than any others, are considered the greatest in the world, by both necessity, when considering the ambitions of America, and tradition, when considering the historical ambitions of America. Though freedom of belief and speech does not guarantee that one’s will is always to be met, it does inch forward the progress of a free nation when its citizens exercise their rights, however small and measured those steps may be.
America continues to lead the world in freedom and though at times it may seem as if it is being hijacked by forces beyond our control, it still is considered, and considers itself the freest nation in the world and the home of liberty. No nation owes more gratitude to the great martyrs of freedom throughout history, and, as a liberator around the world, no nation has done more to pay those costs.
By Matthew C. Brock