The soul of America


Illustration by Sophia Evans

A heart with the United States flag, a symbol of the soul of America, melts away. The image symbolizes the loss of America’s core value of freedom.

Zoe Goor, Layout Assistant and Staff Writer

The first word of President Joe Biden’s reelection campaign announcement video is “freedom.” The landing page of the Republican National Committee displays the phrase (in big red and white letters): “Freedom matters.” The democrats and republicans and the centrists and extremists, are perpetually at odds with one another because the parties’s definitions of freedom tend to conflict. Freedom is the soul of America, yet our increasingly polarized society is stripping away many of the foundational rights at the core of American society and not replacing them with any others. To clarify, in both sides’ fights to preserve the freedoms they believe in and restrict the ones that they don’t, they have achieved the opposite goal from the one they set out to accomplish, restricting freedoms rather than expanding them. Every expansion of freedom for one side is a loss for the other because of the partisan way in which each issue is approached.

Abortion is one of the more contentious issues in American politics. It is the quintessential example of a freedom controversy. For many liberals, it is a violation of freedom to take away a woman’s right to her body. For many conservatives , it is a violation of the fetus’s freedom for a woman to get an abortion. Instead of giving Americans the freedom to make the choice to have or forgo an abortion based on their beliefs, some republicans are systematically stripping away all freedom: many of us have no power over our own medical decisions, regardless of which side of the aisle we are on.

Similarly, gun rights have become a battlefield in the fight for American freedom. While most of the left believes that ownership of certain types of weapons can lead to the violation of another person’s freedom, many on the right believe that the lack of access to a gun will allow someone else to violate their freedom. Although, of course, there is much ideological diversity in these groups with conservatives who believe in gun control and liberals who believe in gun rights, the political mainstream has distilled the arguments into hyper polarized ones.

But many republican politicians back out of their “freedom first” mentality the second they enter a debate or vote on transgender rights and healthcare. For example, Nebraska republicans pushed a restrictive bill through the state legislature May 19, cutting off certain healthcare services for transgender youth. On the other hand, democrats aim to keep rights of trans minors open. Instead of coming to a compromise, both sides restrict, restrict, restrict, each new law adding kindling to the forest fire of hate ravishing the American south.

Lastly, the media accuracy and partisanship , finds itself in the crossfires of the ideological civil war that has taken over America on Twitter and the nightly news. We all know how it goes: if you vote blue, you typically watch CNN. If you vote red, you generally watch Fox News. Instead of listening to each viewpoint, most of us live in an echo chamber, and our hyper polarized ideals feeding on themselves and growing in intensity.

Every time one side wins the other side feels less free — an expansion of freedom for one side is a reduction in freedom for the other. This becomes a negative feedback loop – each feeling of being slighted by the other side manifests itself in an increased move away from compromise and towards polarization.

The United States has lost sight of what it is supposed to be: a land where freedom reigns supreme because what counts as freedom is blurry at best and unintelligible at worst. Part of understanding what it means to be an American is understanding the foundational tension between the vague definitions of freedom in the founding documents of our country and the abundant modern day definitions of the ideal.