The Demands of Freedom

Recently, I was privileged enough to be in Vietnam to experience their National Day, which celebrates the declaration of their independence from French colonization in 1945.

It’s quite a feeling to be in the midst of such relative revolution.

Unlike the far distant and quite disconnected feels I get during July 4th (more and more so these past cycles), it’s uniquely humbling to be in the felt presence of elders who witnessed and lived through that brutal experience.

What does it mean to be free? And what costs are worth its attainment?

It’s surreal to see joyful children playing in motorized toy tanks driven by smiling, hopeful parents whose own parents were undoubtedly doing quite the opposite in the real thing decades ago.

These days, the concept of Freedom seems overly angsty and comes with an energy far from honorable and benevolent. It seems too often a weaponized method of destruction rather a force used for collective betterment.

But perhaps that’s the nature of things. Does Freedom inherently mean more for some, and restriction for others?

Something I’ve felt strongly here as I’ve walked the streets of Hanoi, eaten the food of the land, and interacted with its indigenous people, is how the Vietnamese live (and surely fight) with their hearts.

There’s an unpretentiousness here that I find refreshing (and challenging at times) compared to Thailand’s ready smiles and warmth.

And yet, it has me wonder how that manifested, at what cost, and in today’s context, is it ever worth it?

While I’m far from qualified to speak in depth about generational trauma, it seems to me the impact and influence of colonialism and domination upon the human psyche is undeniable.

What’s tough is how it’s hard to not see in their reflection how the harsh depths of war, subjugation, and racism are still very much alive (and dare I say well) in the world.

When is it justified to resist, raise a voice, and to rebel?

As I see the bubbles of families on motorbikes buzzing in the bustling streets of chaos, children protected by fierce parental energies, and the strong sense of ownership and celebration of ancestral land, it becomes clear that, in this case, the strife and bloodshed of those seasons many years ago, was worth it.

Perhaps it’s always worth raising a fist, when it’s in service of a new hope, a renewed future, and a generative outcome.

This is a stark difference from what I see happening in the lands of the West.

Instead of Freedom being something that breathes life to the ground, I see it used as a reason, an excuse, and for those less grounded to be treated as weeds instead of seeds.

What will become of us when we have no more roots in the ground? When we lose the vibrancy that comes with a multi-cultural garden? What flowers will no longer grow? What will we do when the birds and bees no longer return?

Freedom is a choice, but it’s also an offering. An offering to future generations that requires heart, grit, and protection.

It also seems to come at a cost. Perhaps anything worth its weight requires sweat, sacrifice, and when needed, blood.

Even the seed’s action of pushing through the dirt as it reaches for the sun can be seen as forceful, yet without this movement its beauty and potential would wither the dark.

Perhaps there’s enough for everyone. Maybe it demands we free ourselves from excess and offer back land so that there’s more to share. Instead of dominating each other, we can learn to subjugate the shadows of humanity through maturity and tending of our collective hurt and grief.

This would require us to get dirty, to spend time in the fields with the heat of the sun on our backs, to slow down and discern what is in fact a weed and what is a seedling that needs our protection.

Perhaps this means we remember what our ancestors knew, that laughter and effort go hand in hand in cultivating the land, and each other.

And, perhaps not. Perhaps these are the overly idealistic ramblings of a hopeful human who’s been touched by the spirit and beauty of benevolent Freedom.

One who dreams one day of abundant harvests from collective gardens that grow fertile, flourishing, and free.

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What does Freedom mean to you? What Future vision do you hold, that makes it worth fighting for?

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