Is Liberty Dead?

“Is Truth Dead?” Time magazine asked on a recent cover, a clever nod to their 1966 “Is God Dead?” cover. I can’t imagine the words “Is Truth Dead?” boldly gracing a cover in any other year but this one. The events of Nov. 8, 2016, changed the course of the world dramatically, as did the months of campaigning that led up to that fateful night. Donald Trump’s victory made “Truth” into a buzzword—because suddenly, we were forced to consider the reality that there are often several shades of the truth.

Truth wasn’t the only concept distorted by Trump’s win and subsequent actions as president. Freedom, often symbolized by an-American bald eagle, has taken on a new meaning. Are American citizens truly free if the colour of their skin or the religion they practice makes them the target of a discriminatory travel ban? Equality is another word that has changed drastically; because while America’s founding fathers held the self-evident truth that all men are created equal, many of the words, actions, and policies of Trump’s administration are at direct odds with the very notion of equality.

There’s another word that I think has been missing in many discussions of Trump’s government: liberty, as in the inalienable right to “Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of happiness,” and also as in the statute of Liberty  (which, I may add, has seen a significant increase in visitors since Trump took office).

Maybe it’s just me, but “Liberty” hasn’t been as widely-discussed as some of the aforementioned words. Liberty is very similar to freedom, but the definition of the word liberty on its own struck me as having particular relevance to Trump’s administration. Liberty is, according to the trusty dictionary.com, “Freedom from arbitrary or despotic government or control.” Another definition: “Freedom from external or foreign rule; independence.” And another: “Freedom from control [or] interference.”

My mind jumped to Russia as I read those definitions. The investigation into Trump’s ties with Russia took a dramatic turn this week when former National Security Advisor Michael Flynn offered to testify about Russia in exchange for immunity. America is, of course, relatively autonomous; but the overwhelming evidence of links between Putin and Trump’s government makes me question just how free from foreign rule America really is, especially considering the Russian interference into the election. There is also evidence that some of Trump’s actions have been influenced by his businesses. For example, the first version of his travel ban excluded countries where he has business interests.

George Orwell said, “If liberty means anything, it means the right to tell people what they do not want to hear.” So here is something that you may not want to hear: many of America’s traditional values are shifting, perhaps not for the better. If you value things like truth, freedom, equality, and liberty, then you need to speak up and fight for them to remain an essential and unwavering aspect of democracy. Because at the rate things are going, Time is going to have a field day with all of the “Is [insert important concept here] dead?” covers.


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29 thoughts on “Is Liberty Dead?

  1. I’d throw tolerance into the mix too as certain groups, despite the law dictating they are equal, are going to be consistently harassed over the course of this administration. Nonetheless, really enjoyed this piece.

    1. Good point! I’d also argue, though, that there is a difference between tolerance and acceptance–the goal, I think, should be complete acceptance; but with Trump’s administration, even tolerance seems a stretch for some people.

  2. Another blogger takes on DJT. If only the world would read our blogs. You’re right, America’s values are shifting (or they already have). It’s amazing how a man with the slogan “make america great” could do so much damage to our country so quickly.

  3. YES. This is a great post. How can Americans fight back though? I feel like just by virtue of being such a large, sprawling country it’s hard to organise…. I hope I’m wrong because the situation over there is getting dire!

    1. Thank you, Quinn! I think it can definitely be hard to mobilize, but at the same time, events like the Women’s March have showed that people can come together to make their voices heard.

  4. It does feel like we take a few timid steps forward, then we shot backward by a cannon. I’m not certain we–as Americans–every truly had liberty. It was a lofty goal set down by the Founding Fathers, but poorly enacted. We’ve never reached that goal, and, at the moment, it seems even further out of reach.

    But keep writing and shouting.

  5. Great piece! We are definitely in troubled and changing times. Its funny to me that the party that talks the most about “freedom” and “liberty” is also the party that seems to spend the most energy trying to control what everyone else does. Makes me wonder if you’re right, are liberty and freedom just empty words now?

    -John

  6. ! I think it can definitely be hard to mobilize, but at the same time, events like the Women’s March have showed that people can come together to make their voices heard.

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