By Taylor Dawson, Alabama Policy Institute
When most of us think about the Fourth of July, we think about pool parties, cooking out, fireworks, and spending time with friends and family. Others think about our love for America. Some of us even wait all year for an occasion to wear a t-shirt that has the Declaration of Independence printed on it. Is that just me?
I can’t hide it—I’m a huge fan of the Declaration of Independence. Almost every time I’ve visited Washington D.C., even if it’s only for a weekend, I make time to visit the National Archives just to see it. It’s not changing, but I still can hardly make it longer than a year without looking at it.
When you look at the Declaration of Independence, one of the things that you may notice is that most of the text is written in a script that is barely legible. A few words, however, are written in a script that is much clearer and easier to read. Three of those words are “free and independent.”
America’s founders risked their lives to create a nation where citizens could truly be “free and independent”.
As children, a lot of us learned—when we were told we couldn’t do something—just to say, “it’s a free country! I can do whatever I want!” While that didn’t get me anywhere most of the time, aside from being swiftly sent to my room when I said it to the wrong audience, I’m glad I learned that phrase. I’m glad I grew up declaring that freedom was at the core of my country’s values, whether or not I realized that was what I was doing.
So now, as a millennial in the political sphere, I find myself thinking, “what does freedom really mean to me?” Freedom, to me, means the ability to think, speak, worship, work, and make decisions for myself with minimal—if any—government interference. That’s how the founders set up our republic.
As a woman, I’m told I have to support certain movements. As a millennial, I’m told I have to vote a certain way. But as an American, I know that I have the freedom to say what I want, believe what I choose, and vote for who and what I think is best, whether others agree with me or not.
In some ways, it seems like freedom is losing these days. I sometimes find myself afraid to speak freely out of fear of being shouted down for my opinions. Sure, my freedom to express myself is being respected by the government, and I absolutely respect the freedom of others to disagree with me. But when we see things like Kanye West speaking positively about President Trump on Twitter and causing a media firestorm, or college students and professors being shut down for expressing their opinions, it can be disheartening.
While the media and social media often make it look like much of the country is trending toward a departure from freedom, the fight for freedom is going strong. For example, just last week, the United States Supreme Court handed down two decisions that decisively upheld the First Amendment. The decision in Janus v. AFSCME restored free speech rights to millions of government workers, and in NIFLA v. Becerra, the Court ruled that California could not require pro-life pregnancy centers to promote state-provided abortion services to their clients. Additionally, earlier this year right here in our own state, the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education gave Auburn University its highest rating for free speech policies on college campuses.
It may seem like freedom is being threatened in America, but in reality, freedom is on the move. Do not get discouraged, as I all too often do. This Fourth of July, embrace the freedom given to us by the founders. Many men and women have fought hard to preserve it. That is why the Alabama Policy Institute exists—to defend and promote your freedom. You have my word that for as long as we can, we will fight for freedom in America and in Alabama.