I grew up in Carrboro, NC, a very liberal town; a town where everyone takes their own personal liberties very seriously. My elementary school was very different than what I have heard from others. We had enough freedom to not feel controlled by our teachers, but they still made sure that they were in control. My 5th grade teacher taught us about liberty and how it is important to all of us. How it is something that we can’t be taken away from us, and it is something that we deserve. One specific time I can remember was in elementary school. I was a tomboy and I wanted to play football with the boys. They were happy to let me play football with them because they knew that I was athletic and they were fine with me playing. One of the teachers told me that I couldn’t play football with them because I was a girl. They said that it wasn’t right for a girl to play football, that it was no place for girls. This may have been an insignificant instance of a teacher simply telling a student what they can and cant do, but at this point it felt like someone was taking my freedom away from me. I wasn’t ok with someone telling me that simply because I was a girl I couldn’t do something. It felt like someone was taking my freedom away from me, in a sense my liberty. Middle school was similar to elementary school, my teachers gave us enough freedom to keep us sane, but aside from that nothing really happened. High school was a different story. My senior year my US History teacher taught us to question authority. If there was anything that we felt was unfair for some reason or another. She approached teaching history in a way that I had never experienced before. Her lessons were very interactive, and they forced us to think about what each lesson meant to us. My history class taught me to see the realities of liberty differently. Liberty is something that can’t be taken away from us. If liberty begins to disappear it is up to us to bring it back. The people are responsible for keeping their own personal freedoms and liberties. Going into college I thought that I had a pretty clear idea of what liberty meat to me. Through studying American history through liberty I discovered that I still had a lot to learn. Liberty is constantly changing in a way that can’t be foreseen. It means something different to everyone, and it is different in each state or country. Through my history class this semester I learned to look at liberty a different way. Now I look at liberty as something that is a determining factor in history. Liberty shapes our world, whether we acknowledge it or not. Through my education my view of liberty has changed, and the way we define liberty has changed with it.
Surprisingly enough many of the things that applied to American society hundreds of years ago still apply today. The antislavery arguments were the following; slavery was a religious violation, it was inefficient in a free labor society, it violated natural rights, it furthered racial inequality, it was a violation of the constitution, and it was wrong for political reasons (it denied a true democracy). With all of the social problems that we have today it is easy to find a connection between any of these issues from the 1800’s and todays society. For example one of the many arguments against abortion is that it is a religious violation. Catholics believe that life starts at conception, and cite their religious beliefs as a reason to prevent the legality of abortion. Gay marriage can be tied to religious reasons as well. Once again the Catholic Church believes that gay marriage would be harmful to the sanctity of marriage, and their arguments are mainly religious. In addition to these religious arguments there are also arguments toward free speech. Whenever the 1st Amendment comes into question the first thing people bring up is that if certain civil liberties were taken away they would be deemed unconstitutional. In today’s society, although we have come a far way there is still the issue of racism and racial inequality. When these issues are brought up one of the most prominent arguments for this is that we should all strive for racial equality. On top of all of these the most common arguments today are political arguments. Social issues today can’t be solved efficiently because politicians cant get along. These political issues that we face today are very different than those during the anti-slavery, but many of the arguments are the same. They are broad enough to last hundreds of years, but yet specific enough to apply to social issues today.
Liberty is constantly changing. Throughout the first few chapters of American history liberty was considered to be something that was reserved for only the wealthiest and the most powerful in society. These people were only wealthy, land-owning white men. The colonists only started to feel that their liberties were being oppressed when the revolution began to heat up. The British were passing more and more acts to control the colonists, to prove that they still had their power. The colonists began to revolt against these acts, and this only angered the British even more. At this point liberty is no longer something that is taken for granted. Liberty is now being questioned for the first time. Colonists weren’t allowed to do some of the things that they had used to do. Liberty is something that is now in “high demand”. The colonists revolt against the control of the British. They organize against the British at the Continental Congress. Here they discussed liberty, and freedom, and all of the other things that they believed to be essential to the foundation for their nation. Liberty is now something that should be fought for. In the past liberty was taken for granted. At this point there is a common goal for the colonists. This goal is to gain back the liberty that was taken from them. England began exercising powers over the colonies, and the colonies decided that it was time to prove that they could have powers of their own. Liberty has changed from something that men took for granted to something that was worth fighting for. This isn’t close to my definition of liberty at all. I believe that liberty is something that everyone is entitled to, no matter what race, gender, or social status you are. Liberty is constantly changing. It is being restricted, or widened depending on how the government is conducting their business. I believe that this is only a momentary thing for the colonists. They will have their liberty back soon enough.
My ideas of liberty have shifted from something concrete to something more theoretical. Liberty is denied to slaves, women, and Indians in the colonies frequently, and this has become the normal. Through chapters 1-4 I have learned that liberty, as I know it was reserved for white men only. They can own land, vote, participate in town meetings, and they hold jobs. In my first blog post I stated; “liberty Is something that I believe should never be questioned and/or taken away from anyone”. Throughout these chapters about Native Americans, slaves, women, and the revolution I have realized that liberty was not always a given things. Immigrants came to America for a new start. When the came here they were often under strict rules. Indentured servants had to work for a set period of time, slaves were forced into labor, and many poor immigrants were deprived of basic liberties.
My definition of liberty has changed form something that should never be taken away from anyone, and that everyone is entitled to “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness”. Liberty in early colonial America was a glorified idea. Immigrants came to America with high hopes for a new life, where they could prosper, and start a good lives for their family, unfortunately in early America in order for this to work you had to be a wealthy white man. Slaves had no liberty, indentured servants didn’t have liberty until they had served their debt, and women were void of liberty as well.
These first sections of the book caused me to think about how far our country has come. Society today takes liberty for granted, and like so many others I didn’t consider what liberty was like in the past until we studied it in colonial America. I am thankful at how many steps we have taken towards liberty, and I hope that we wont take any steps backwards.
Today in class we had a discussion about what liberty meant to each of us. We all agreed on one simple phrase, “Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness”. Liberty was the one right that the government couldn’t take away from the citizens, and that stayed the same no matter what. It wasn’t until later in the conversation that things got a little more confusing. I was surprised that many of the other students in my group had thought about liberty in such a different way than I had. They thought about how criminals were denied their liberties since they had violated laws, and ended up in prison. We were all generally in agreement with what liberty was at a basic level, but of course it meant something different to each specific person. Many of my group members thought of liberty as something that everyone has, but that it could be taken away. I had never thought about it that way before and it was good to hear the perspectives of others.
Liberty means something different to everyone, it differs depending where you are from, what your gender is, and even what your race is. It is a very hard thing to define, but to me liberty is the freedom to make your own choices, and not have to worry about what the government will have to say about them. Our nation was founded on the ideals of “Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness”. To be completely honest, living in the United States I don’t think about liberty very often. We live in a society where Liberty is so normal, that many citizens don’t even give it a second thought. Other countries such as Russia or Iran don’t have the same civil liberties that we do. Especially in Iran the citizens live in fear of that the Ayatollah will do to them if they disobey the rules that the government has set forth for them. In the United States the government doesn’t interfere with our lives the way other countries do. I feel very lucky that I live in a country where our liberties are protected. The government doesn’t make us follow unrealistic rules, or punish us harshly for the mistakes that we make. I take my liberty for granted. My right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness has never been questioned. Liberty is something that I believe should never be questioned and/or taken away from anyone. One of the many things that set America apart from other countries is liberty. Our citizens have a luxury that many others do not. There are many things wrong with our society, there are laws that should be changed, policies that should be lifted, but as a whole our society is far better off than many others. I am proud to live in a nation where I don’t have to question my liberties on a daily basis. Although I can find many faults in the government, one thing that they got right was to allow all citizens of the United States the right to “Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness”.