This afternoon at the playground a group of rowdy seven-year old boys were running circles around my two-year old. Their play amused me as they shot pretend guns at one another and used elaborate strategies to conduct their game. One of the boys told me proudly that he was an American and that America was a free-country.
The boy began throwing wood chips at the other boys as their game became more aggressive. The other boys protested telling the culprit to stop, with him replying, "it's a free country." The winner noticed my observation and explained that, "We live in America, it's a free country. That means that I can do whatever I want."
Taken-aback by his rationale for cruelty, I told him that while we live in a free country we have a responsibility to respect others and property like the playground. I'm not sure where this boy learned that freedom means that one can do whatever he pleases, but it disturbed me. Suppose the boy wants to drive a car, climb a tree and get a new puppy, can he has all of these things because it's a free country? Could he do all these things in spite of age, lack of strength, or parental consent? Suppose I want be a Navy Seal, pitch for the Yankees, and have identical twin girls with blue eyes and curly hair? There are physical laws, natural laws, and governmental law in place that prevent those from having whatever they want. Unfortunately, today's view of freedom is so skewed that people believe that freedom means absolute control over the laws surrounding them.
As a Catholic I'm governed by many rules, traditions and practices that people from the secular world may find burdensome and oppressive. It can be confusing to some that "Where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom" ( 2 Corinthians 3:17). The concept of freedom makes the most sense when applied to service, that only until we give our lives away (to others, to the Lord, to our families), do we truly have life, happiness...freedom.
I often pray for the next generation and for those in my generation who will be raising children. I shudder to think of a world where the only thing freedom means is a narcissistic me in the center, entitled to anything I may want.