This month's topic is FREEDOM, a word by its very definition that can be a lightning rod for heated debate. Because of this, I chose to write about what freedom -- in my eyes-- means to me - and should mean to all of us.
1. The right to make my own decisions about my body, my finances, and my political party.
I was born in the century where women first were granted the right to vote, given access to medical and safe birth control, and allowed to possess credits cards. That last one may sound weird, but up until 1974, married women were not allowed to possess credit cards since they were still considered by major companies as property of their husbands, and thereby fell under their husbands' reign. The EQUAL CREDIT OPPORTUNITY ACT of 1974 granted married women the right to obtain credit cards separately from their husbands. This, in turn, granted them reign over their own finances.
2. The right to read what I want, watch what I want on television and in the movie theatre, and listen to the kind of music I want.
I also grew up in an era that saw many states ban certain books from schools and libraries because they were considered salacious and potentially damaging to school-age children ( and some adults!) The list of the most banned books of the 20th century can be found here: banned books. I am proud to say I have read every single one of them.
In 1968, a voluntary movie rating system was instituted to help parents decide if a movie was appropriate for their children to see. I was 8 at the time.
In 1975, the television academy began programming shows geared toward families, called the Family hour. This one hour of programming each night was meant for television shows to refrain from violence, foul language, and sexual content. I was 15 at the time.
In 1985 warning labels began appearing on records ( the vinyl kind!) indicating that the lyrics or subject matter of the songs within the album may not be appropriate for children. I was 25 at the time.
I am 61 years old now and thankfully, none of those restrictions apply to me any longer. I have grown into an age where I can read, watch, and listen to whatever I want without any governmental or parental interference. I am free to explore the artistic side of nature without restrictions.
3. The right to think the way I want to think and to say what's on my mind without threat of punishment.
Again, until recently, women were expected to think and vote the same way their husbands did. In the past, if a woman's opinion differed from her husband's - or society in general - her husband could have her arrested, prosecuted, and jailed.
The advent of the Women's Movement of the 1960s proved women had thinking, functioning, logical minds and could make their own decisions without the need for a man to oversee or man-splain issues to them. Women began speaking out on topics historically only vetted by men. Our voices grew louder and stronger and today there are more women representing others in government than at any other time. While shouting FIRE in a crowded space is still illegal ( and should be) we are now afforded the right to speak our minds, protest peacefully, and engage in verbal discourse without the threat of being incarcerated for having an opinion.
4. The freedom to be who I am and live the life I want to without censure, threat of violence, or death.
If we've learned anything since this country was founded, it's that all people ARE NOT created equally in the eyes of society. The disenfranchised among us continues to grow daily; children are mistreated and abused; the elderly are warehoused; people of color are killed in the streets for no other reason than they are not caucasian. The indigenous people of this country are treated as non-entities. Veterans are forgotten.
To be a truly free nation, none of the above would occur.
Freedom, through my eyes and in my mind, means we are all truly EQUAL in society, government, and everyday life. No matter what color our skin is, what our religious beliefs are, where we fall in the voting spectrum, and how much money we have.
Our government sends our military all over the world to fight for the rights of people to experience freedom.
Wouldnt it be wonderful if that fight began here, on our home soil, and with our own citizens, first?
Peggy Jaeger writes about strong women, the families who support them, and the men who can't live without them.
Visit her at peggyjaeger.com