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Chains of Freedom

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Fourth of July week is a natural time for Americans—black, white or otherwise—to contemplate hard-won freedoms. But writer Elizabeth Sandoval says, from her observations, many of us are in chains of our own choosing. She has these thoughts on the choices that make us less free.

My Pink Line ride home from work each day brings with it some colorful sights. There is the "classic"" Harold Washington Library. The somewhat iconic Quincy Station. And the ironically-lovely Metropolitan Correctional Center. The sleek lines of this facility and the imaginative display of windows somehow suggest a sort of modern masterpiece-- and not the House of Criminals, which in fact, it is.

One recent evening on the ride home-- as I gazed intently at this structure, an intense irony gripped me.

The irony that right outside this edifice which houses the captive, was a homeless person who had made a nearby bench his resting place.

Of course there's no way I could know if this man made this choice consciously or not. But there was something so saddening about this vision.

This man, outside the confines of this facility, for all intents and purposes a FREE man, yet captive in his own right.

I imagined an inmate or two peering out his tiny sliver of a window, witnessing what I was witnessing, and yelling-- "Run! Or walk, You are FREE!"

And I realized in that moment--that we are all just like that homeless man. Now I won't pretend to know what it is that in fact imprisons that homeless man. But what I do know is that we're each captive in a different way. I know a couple of people who are so captive to fear that they didn't leave their spouses recently, when these spouses more than deserved to be left behind. I know more than a couple of people who are captive to their appearance-- and to material things-- in the worst way. Semi-anorexic. Spray tanning. Only brand name clothing. A baby buggy for the dog. You know the kind. I know a man who is captive to his work. He has a family that he claims to love, yet you wouldn't know it by the amount of time spent at work. i know someone who is so captive to multiple vices: healthy portions of slovenliness and substance abuse, that he blames others for his failures and current life situations. I myself have been captive to some of the above. I have been that man, sitting with my shopping cart full of crap, choosing a bench right outside of a prison--when I could very well leave the cart behind and run free.

And as melodramatic as this may sound, I have to think: is THIS what our founding fathers went to the mat for?

THIS is the land of the free? And if so, what is there to be so proud of? For all of our self-aggrandizing, we sure need a lot of work. The choices that we make and the situations in which we place ourselves-- are nothing short of tragic.

This Independence Day, I think we should get creative in how we think about the word "Freedom".

Because we may THINK we know the meaning of the word.

But a lot of us need to leave our shopping carts behind. And pick a different bench to sit on.

Music Button: Victor Bermon, “Photographs Are Not Memories” from the CD Arriving at Night (Hefty)

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