I’ve long suspected that freedom is a construct which simply does not work in societies. At least not on scale: As soon as a freedom is granted to me, it invariably impinges a freedom of someone else. There may be an exception I haven’t considered, but by and large, I believe this to be true. So long as people have the freedom to think, and form their own beliefs, we are going to bump heads.
I recently enjoyed a leisure excursion to the White Mountains area of New Hampshire, that provided me with food for thought on this matter. As a lifelong New Englander, I’m well familiar with the NH state motto: “Live free or die.” Now this motto is clearly derived from the colonial sentiment during the American revolution. It’s interesting to note, however, that this was adopted by New Hampshire as it’s first official state motto in the middle of the 20th century. In fact, the motto’s inclusion on the NH motor vehicle license plate began in 1971. So it would appear that freedom is still very much on the mind of the people of New Hampshire.
So Live Free or Die, hmm. What does that mean in our present America, our present world? I have to say, while the people of NH may be passionate about the motto, I’ve long regarded it as hyperbole. I mean, come on, the colonies have not been under British rule for centuries. Therefore, I considered it to be either patriotism, or more likely, a statement on personal freedom. And that second point especially, I regard with a bit of prejudice: When I think of modern-day Americans espousing the ideals of personal freedom, I usually envision individuals who aim to assert their beliefs on what is morally right and just by which everyone must abide. This is in stark contrast to my own belief on the concept of freedom. In fact, it’s literally the opposite of the aim of democracy (another construct). This, however, was not my experience. While in New Hampshire, I saw communities of people seemingly willing to “live and let live.” A very refreshing two-way street take on the concept of personal freedom. It seems to be a place where one can be free to be ones-self. Of course the sampling of communities I experienced was small, and admittedly there were other tourists about. Nevertheless, it’s a feeling I haven’t felt in any place I’ve ever lived or traveled. And I wasn’t the only one in my small traveling group who noticed this.
Perhaps this is how things are as you venture farther away from big cities. Or perhaps, it’s what happens when a state government allows its people to act with just a little more autonomy. In any case, I’m looking forward to returning to New Hampshire.
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