Sunday, June 12, 2011

Freedom's Just Another Word for Nothing Left to Do?

I'm watching the CBS Sunday Morning Show. I'm finding that I can't look away from the segment called "Don't Try This at Home." The segment started with roller derby girls running across a track while they  are on fire. They are chronicling a dare devil spectacular in Omaha Nebraska.

The star of the show is  Spanky Spangler. One of the last scenes in the segment involved a car drop. Spanky was suspended by a crane 190 feet in the air. He is dangled for a moment in a car and then dropped, head first, into a pile of vans.

After his drop Spanky said, "When you are an American dare devil it is a sign of of freedom. We are lucky to live in a country like this where you have freedom. Being a daredevil doing what you want to do, no matter how dangerous it is is freedom, it's freedom."

I'm all for a little thrill seeking. I've been known to do a little of it myself (though never have I intentionally set myself on fire nor have I been dropped from a crane in a car). That's not what I take issue with this morning.

Being a dare devil is a sign of freedom? Yes. Sure. In a superficial way having the freedom to run around whilst on fire or being dropped into a pile of cars is a sign of freedom. But is that the kind of freedom we want to celebrate. Is that how we want to spend our freedom?

Over the last couple of days I've been reading some of the major speeches that Martin Luther King, Jr. gave during his lifetime. In his Letter from Birmingham Jail, written on April 16, 1963, he wrote:

But though I was initially disappointed at being categorized as an extremist, as I continued to think about the matter, I gradually gained a measure of satisfaction from the label. Was not Jesus an extremist for love: "Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you." Was not Amos an extremist for justice: "Let justice roll down like waters and righteousness like an ever-flow stream." Was not Paul an extremist for the Christian gospel: "I bear in my body the marks of the Lord Jesus." Was not Martin Luther an extremist: "Here I stand; I cannot do otherwise, so help me God," And John Bunyan: "I will stay in jail to the end of my days before I make a butchery of my conscience." And Abraham Lincoln: "This nation cannot survive half slave and half free," And Thomas Jefferson: "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal..." so the question is not whether we will be extremists, but what kind of extremists we will be. Will we be extremists for hate or for love? will we be extremists for the preservation of injustice or for the extension of justice? ...perhaps the South, the nation and the world are in dire need of creative extremists.

Here MLK was talking about extremism, not freedom. The underlying concept is the same. What kind of freedom do we want to have? It's nice (I suppose) to do any number of different dangerous acts. We have a choices that many in this world do not have. How do we want to use that choice? Do we want to use that choice for sensation seeking? Personal gain? How about the betterment of humanity? Making something better for those who come after us?

You have the freedom to choose.

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