In practice, freedom is in the details. It is in the little things around us every day that we are allowed to do or punished by the state for doing. The less of those little life choices are punished, the freer we are.
As we get closer to our beloved national holiday celebrating freedom and all that is America, I want to focus in on just such a detail: this story comes from my home state of New Hampshire, a state with a long and proud rebellious streak. The state motto is, after all, Live Free or Die.
In the quaint seacoast towns of Rye and Hampton, the local police departments have taken to aggressively ticketing beach goers for any drinking of alcohol on the beach. So aggressively in fact that police officers are dressing up like beach goers to observe normal Americans drinking a beer on the beach. What kind of freedom is that!? What kind of America!? Is it not reasonable to expect that citizens be free of harassment and fines for a enjoying a drink seaside? You’d think it would be, but Rye and Hampton police have issued dozens of citations already this year. They seem to cracking down on common sense and throwing all discretion out the window. We can all agree that no one wants glass bottles in the sand or raging drunks roaming the beach, but even in this day and age of polarization I think we can also all agree that nothing quite spells freedom like the right to enjoy a cold one with your toes in the sand on the 4th. Of July.
Of course protesting such unreasonable behavior by a local government will inevitably conjure up a gnashing of teeth and wailing to the almighty God of Safety. However, if we sacrifice all the on the altar of “Safety First”, it will be freedom last.
Unfortunately today too many Americans are increasingly satisfied with a superficial version of freedom, one that includes singing the national anthem, taking your hat off for it and putting your hand over your heart at a ballgame and repeating that you are proud to be an American. Too often we sacrifice real freedom for symbolism and our desperate need for safety at all costs. But that is not freedom in practice. The reality is that day to day freedom means mustering up a bit of courage and being able to do the little things that please us. And by God if that means enjoying a refreshing cold brew at the beach, then let freedom ring! Happy 4th. of July everyone!