Freedom

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I ran into trouble with the word freedom as a child. I was the first born child to immigrant parents living in the U.S. I think some fundamentalist groups have a special name for children like me. I even believe that some of them think I shouldn’t be granted citizenship. But that’s not actually where I butted heads with freedom. It was over the school segregation policy called “Freedom of Choice.” Each year as the end of a school year approached we were sent home with a form for parents to complete, selecting my choice of school for the next year. It was “Freedom of Choice.” But as I was leaving the 4th grade headed to the 5th, no form was going home with me. Schools were being districted and we would loose our “freedom” and be forced into a school, all in the name of integration. I distinctly recall asking “if black children want to attend my school, why can’t they just fill in the form and check my school,” because that would be the definition of freedom. My teacher, and ultimately the principal explained “that’s not how it worked.” And I responded, “that’s not how freedom works? Are they not free to choose?” No one responded.

There are all manner of cliches that attempt to remind us about freedom. It’s not free. It’s another word for nothing left to loose. Thank a solider. It’s a privelege. It’s a cost. What I learned as a child was my freedom may not be the same as anothers, and how I used mine for another enhanced all our freedom.

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