Do you truly believe in liberty? Most of us think we do. I’m not so sure. Let’s take a closer look and you can decide. Liberty means, as defined in the dictionary, the state or condition of people who are able to act and speak freely; the power to do or choose what you want to. This means that we support people making choices they want to make and believing what they want to believe.
Anything done to manipulate or prevent someone from free expression of their ideas or beliefs would demonstrate that we don’t truly value liberty. I recently had a conversation with a friend, who is strongly ideologically aligned with one of the candidates, about people who are saying they won’t vote in the upcoming elections. She shared that she believes everyone should vote and referenced compulsory voting laws in Ecuador as an example of what requirement we should have in our country. She actually does her utmost to convince people to vote. I told her I feel the same way. When people are faced with difficult choices, they shouldn’t opt out of choosing.
I then asked her this question. If you met a person who told you they’re not voting, would you convince them to vote, knowing that they’ll vote for the candidate you oppose? Her response was quick and emphatic. She said, “No! Why would I do something that would help the other team?” My conclusion to her was, “you don’t truly believe that every American should vote. You only believe that Americans who vote like you should vote.”
When the ideas and philosophies we espouse are clearly incongruent with our actions, it says something. It says that I don’t trust what I believe so I won’t live by it. Liberty isn’t some small idea that we just say we believe in. It requires thought, understanding, and commitment. Liberty means I fully accept your choices. I fully accept your right to think, act and choose the way you do. I will do everything possible to uphold your right to liberty. Even when I disagree with you. Liberty is not an easy value to live up to, especially when we have strong views and opinions.
So how do we know if we truly live the idea of liberty? The test is actually when we are confronted with the person that challenges us most. The one that believes in ideas and acts in ways which are diametrically opposed to us. That person is the test of whether we truly believe in liberty. That person is also the gift of helping us truly believe in liberty.