Elaine Brown on Freedom
A Note on Freedom
That place, that land we will never reach, only visit, but dream of, always. Where we would be at our best. A land that would treatus as if we are its children and it is our mother. Motherland birthing us into a vale of tears then caring for us…You are possible my daughter, my son, the best inside you is something you can achieve because you are loved and all things are possible – the song we hear when we hear freedom. Our bodies, our minds, cradled by the memory, the promise if what we might become, yes, andsurely will become, if given half a chance.
Freedom so much larger than we are. Enlarging us. Glimpse of a new day. A great getting up morning when everything in creation finds its voice and we dance to the music, music alive in our hands and feet and minds, music teaching us to overcome enemies within and outside ourselves, not a morning when war’s overand won but the peace of freedom declaring itself, after all is said and done, the race wars, religious wars, wars over things and who owns what, the deepest goal, surest reward for the self and people equally is to sing and dance in community, each of us, his or her way, a step at a time for a sweet time, celebrating,resting, gathering new strength for the next struggle….
No one can give you freedom. Mr. Lincoln with an Emancipation Proclamation changed the legal status of some slaves in America in 1863, but he didn’t give freedom to one person…No one’s been given freedom by America’s bloody wars-from the Revolution and theCivil War to the present crusades in Afghanistan orIraq. If you grant someone the power to free you, you are also granting them the power to enslave….if someone could give the gift of freedom, wouldn’t such an enormous, overwhelming gift establish permanent inequality, a permanent sense of dependency, indebtedness, unfulfillable obligation? The freedom that matters the most is how we feel about ourselves.
Freedom is about choice. The self-grounded, self- motivated decision to imagine (create) a range of choices and the resolve to choose among them. This internal work orients us to our surroundings not magically but with a force literally transcendent since its nonmaterial, beyond any external measure of verification. Even in the most extreme circumstances, freedom exists – the African who jumped from a slave ship into the roiling Atlantic Ocean….Freedom is an attitude, a principle that operates most visibly in spite of resistance.
~ John Edgar Wideman Spring 2003, New York