Freedom is an interestingly complex concept. Americans have adopted the ideal as a fundamental chromosome to our way of life. Since signing the Declaration of Independence, we have attempted to articulate the meaning and the foundation of the word – freedom – into a living breathing structure. Freedom of speech, freedom of religion, freedom from involuntary servitude or slavery. The language we have used as our foundation is supposed to cultivate our lives and shape our futures.
But what about the fact that approximately 21 million people are trapped in some form of forced labor, present day, both ``globally and here in our own country, land of the free (ilo.org)? These individuals are forgotten in propaganda, watching politicians’ freedom campaigns and doubting that this person will reach them in, say, Immokalee, Florida (learn more about great worker’s rights efforts here: http://ciw-online.org/ ).
The Freedom River, a clip narrated by Orson Welles 40 years ago, formulated the meaning of freedom through a metaphoric river. He tells the story of a free flowing river, who by the ignorance and greed of the people, was dammed. The river stopped flowing and became muck. The freedom and vivacious nature of the people was lost.
The tidal rivers of America have brought life to the people who have inhabited this land for centuries. Listening to Welles’ deep, inviting voice I couldn’t help but migrate to the people who are currently entrapped on those very same freedom rivers. The dams were built, allowing only the rich, the affluent, and the normative, free access and potential to the other side. Those are the slaves of today.
The Thirteenth Amendment granted freedom from involuntary servitude yet we are not equipped to free those who are enslaved to poverty, the modern day slave trader. This slave trader now has a new directory of clients that include (but not limited to) textile factories, agricultural farms and ranches, private property care, and the sex industry. Poverty utilizes the middleman - human traffickers - to maintain the supply and demand of humans, sustaining the thriving yet outdated business.
Welles wraps up the novel clip with the culmination of a light bulb that epitomizes the invention of knowledge and insight beyond the American dollar. The light bulb embodies an idea that, “where [the river] has been fouled by our foolishness, it can be made clear by our wisdom”. The people rally to exercise their intellect, clean the river, and destroy the dams so that all of the enjoyment of the Freedom River is restored.
When will the very same light bulb in this 1971 premonition regurgitate itself to include the freedom of all our fellow humans? We are all survivors to systemic torments and marginalization but it is all too palpable for millions of people - men, women, and children of all ages, genders, ethnicities, sexual orientations, mental capacities, and personalities.
As a human race, we are creative by nature. The beauty of invention can forge the wisdom of some with the needs of others. It is our duty as Americans and as humans to break down the systemic dams to those who can’t afford to buy tickets to the Underground Railroad.
Let the Freedom River run. Let freedom ring, but when it does, we need everyone to have access to answer that call.
Watch the Orson Welles video here http://www.openculture.com/2010/12/freedom_river_a_parable_told_by_orson_welles.html
Themes: examining freedoms – people who access freedoms and those who cannot; poverty is the main driver blocking access to freedoms; innovation/entrepreneurism – true innovation is bridging divide between haves and have nots