Since the tragic massacre that took place in Orlando, Florida over the weekend, certain political figures are choosing to capitalize on this wretched moment.
Donald Trump, for one, is tapping into and exploiting the fear and basest instinct of the American. In his speech on the Monday after the attack at Pulse nightclub, Trump warned that terrorism could wipe out the United States.
“There will be nothing, absolutely nothing, left,” he said.
A single gunman carried out the Orlando massacre, he said.
“Can you imagine what they’ll do in large groups, which we’re allowing now to come here?”
By they, he is referring to Muslims in America. But, are these statements the most expedient for such a time as this?
Trump is intensifying the power of fear in presidential politics by demonizing an entire religious group. By this, he is causing another group to feel more and more marginalized in an increasingly diversified country – the white male.
Therefore, statements like” curbing immigration,” “closing the door to all Muslims,” “building a wall across the Mexican border,” “Hillary playing the woman’s card to get ahead,” “requesting a Mexican American judge to recuse himself from a case,” resonate with this voter.
Any survey, legitimate or otherwise, will clearly demonstrate that most of his support and justification for his antics are emanating from that quarter.
Just look at the faces of protests on the television screens. Listen to the screaming, strident voices on conservative radio.
For so long they have established all the guidelines and set all the markers that they are frightened and disoriented. It is inconceivable to them that somebody else would or should have a say in the shaping of tomorrow.
It is audacious, just plain stupid or idiotic that someone would entertain an opinion different from the one he has declared to be correct. The past, they apparently believe, when they controlled and dictated everything, should define the future.
Yet people, despite our best efforts, will not remain shackled or silent forever. It is becoming abundantly clear—freedom of expression for all people is alarming and unnerving for some.
The Intrinsic Nature of Freedom
As the Pastor of my church was just concluding a sermon series on freedom, I watched the television series,” ROOTS.”
It is about one family’s quest to discover their place in the world—their reason for being amidst the stifling conditions of slavery.
There are striking similarities between spiritual and physical bondage.
There are people in the world, Christians and atheists alike, who live all their lives and never understand the true nature of freedom.
Freedom involves the liberation of body, soul and spirit. Freedom means acknowledgement of independent self-worth. You do not live, nor is it mandatory, that you live your life in accordance with the expectations of other people. There is only one master of us all. He is totally good, and all his expectations for us are only good and beneficial.
Therefore, you pay heed only to what he says for he is the ultimate yardstick. You alone possess the power to move your boundaries and determine your own destiny.
You do not hold the God-given right to define the destiny of another. Instead, you try to love them over to your way of thinking by understanding, empathy and compassion.
There is a story of a Pakistani Muslim who had converted to Christianity. One day while attending a conference in the United States he was offered a ham sandwich. He refused, requesting instead chicken or beef. The server replied, “Don’t you know that you now have the freedom to eat anything you want after accepting Jesus Christ?” Yes, was the response, but I also have the freedom to refuse it.
“You see sir, my father is still a Muslim, and every time I take one of these trips he asks me, well, have those infidels persuaded you to eat that unclean defiled meat yet. No, I would respond every time, it has never crossed my lips. I know that if I ever did he would never allow me back into the house and his soul is more important to me than my appetite.”
Essentially, freedom means the power of choice.
All people are free to choose right or wrong, victory or defeat, deeds that are divine or hellish in origin.
As Moses was departing his time of service with the nation of Israel, he gave them this final admonishment,
I call heaven and earth to witness against you today, that I have set before you life and death,blessing and curse. Therefore choose life, that you and your offspring may live, loving the Lord your God,obeying his voice and holding fast to him. - Deut.30:19-20.
Ironically, this message was delivered to the children of all the original refugees from Egypt whose full intent, goal, objective and destination, upon their departure from slavery, was the Promised Land.
Those people were so broken, tired and worn out by captivity; they never could grasp the meaning and purpose of freedom.
They all, except two, had to pass away so the dead weight of their discouragement could be lifted off the backs of their children who would march in to conquer, and enjoy the land of milk and honey.
Freedom of Mind and Soul
There is another unholy, perverse connection between master and slave.
In the ‘Roots” series, Chicken George was the offspring of a forced liaison between a white master and black slave mother.
One scene showed the Civil war was over, the slaves had all been freed—George confronting his distant, unfeeling father whispered, “you were a slave all this time and did not even know it.”
They, master and slave, both had to divorce their humanity, deny their souls and ignore their conscience to abide in such a despicable, dehumanizing condition.
The master had to preach it, teach it and whip it into the slave to convince and persuade him that he had no value or worth except in the welfare of his owner.
The master had to convince himself that slaves would never ever be fully human or equal to any white man, not even one of the lowest social order. The slave could never fully own anything—not wife, children, name, culture, pride nor personal value or responsibility. His life was always uncertain and he could live only in the moment and for the day. In order to survive he had to resign himself to accept this vile existence as the natural order of things.
He always had to give place, know his place or stay in place, or there would be hell to pay for him or her or his or her children. Unfortunately, this attitude still persists in some of us until this day.
Read this telling excerpt from the movie Mississippi Burning said by the Gene Hackman character:
You know when I was a little boy, there was an old negro farmer that lived down the road from us, named Monroe. He was ... (subtle laugh), I guess he was just a little more luckier than my daddy was. He bought himself a mule. It was a big deal round that town. Now my daddy hated that mule. Kuse, his friends were always kidding him about, "They saw Monroe out plowing with his new mule and Monroe is going to rent another field now he had a mule." One morning that mule showed up dead. They poisoned the water. After that, there wasn't any mention about that mule around my daddy. It just never came up. One time we were driving down that road and we passed Monroe's place and we saw it was empty. He just packed up and left, I guess, he must’ve went up north or something. I looked over at my daddy's face, I knew he done it. He saw that I knew. He was ashamed. I guess he was ashamed. He looked at me and said, "If you ain't better than a nigger son, who are you better than?"
That is the pernicious tragic cycle of slavery. Your destiny, purpose, self-value, dignity and pride-- all tied up and entangled in the fact that someone is less or more than you.
Yet, true freedom means you release yourself and the other guy to pass through life, according to the way that God made you or himself to be.
We are all sojourners in this world, equipped with the same basic resources, bound ultimately for one of two final eternal destinations.
None is better than another and only God and the individual should determine the success or failure of a particular life.
Despite what you may have been taught, seen, heard or felt, God does not love or respect any person, place or thing more than any other person, place or thing.
Therefore, no denomination, no set of religious rules, no ecclesiastical order, no cultural or social norms should dictate the way a man or woman approaches life. This journey, this road, this existence is a peculiar, singular relationship between the individual and his or her God.
In the final analysis, that is the only being to whom a person has to give an account or explanation.
Indeed, he commanded that the wheat and tares be allowed to grow together until the day of harvesting by the master gardener.
However, therein lies the never ending struggle and mystery of life. Every man or woman, at one time or another, has had to deal with the anger, frustration and bitterness that the other guy is not living life according to the plans that you or I have mapped out for him.
Picture the exasperated parent trying to mold that resistant child into his compliant sibling. How about that husband, wife or sweetheart trying to fashion the other into the ideal mate?
Yes! One day for our own liberation and peace of mind we must eventually conclude that we will never make them into living versions of our opinions. Freedom means that individuality, uniqueness and independent self-determination are resident and undeniable in every human being.
It is not a universal requirement that I dance to the tune that you are playing.
Freedom means—we have all been given the God ordained right to sing with confident assurance the words of the old Negro spiritual:
FREE AT LAST,FREE AT LAST. THANK GOD ALMIGHTY, I AM FREE AT LAST!
V. Knowles is a husband, father and prison minister with an interest in penning issues that serve to uplift mankind. He melds his love for Classic literature, The Bible and pop culture - as sordid as it may be - into highly relatable columns of truth, faith and justice. Hence the name: Just Thinking. If he's not buried in a book or penning his next column, you may find him pinned to his sectional watching a good old Country and Western flick.