Freedom – Short and Sweet

by Chris Markham. 0 Comments

If you don’t count bankruptcies, I’m not in Federal Court very often. But currently, I have a case that requires me to go to the federal courthouse in Greenbelt. It’s a pretty big complex, set off of the road a ways. Recently, I had to file a document there and, on my way out of the place, I noticed a federal marshal just patrolling the grounds. Maybe it was because I had already been to two other courthouses that day and was attuned to all manner of security procedures that I noticed. But the thought got me thinking and/or depressed.
We do live in a free country – purportedly the freest in the world. Yet our federal, state and county property have to be patrolled by armed guards during the ordinary day-to-day course of business. I remember immediately after 9-11 seeing military vehicles patrol the streets of DC. While I felt marginally safer, I knew it was a necessary evil for the times we lived in. I felt sad for what we lost. I remembered climbing all over DC’s monuments, statues and parks as a kid – can’t do that type of stuff today.
I mourn for what we’ve lost in this country.
Adding to this rumination, my son asked me a few weeks ago why this wasn’t a free country. I wanted to know what he meant by that. He responded that here in America, he couldn’t do whatever he wanted. Again, I asked what did he want to do that he couldn’t? Turns out he’s a bit chuffed that he has to go to school until he’s 18 (little does he know he can drop out prior to that, but he’s not going to hear that from me). He was also quite concerned about committing a crime without knowing that he’s committed a crime, and that could potentially “mess” with his freedom.
Then, I had the “talk.” No, not THAT talk. The talk about freedom versus personal responsibility. We have the freedom to do what we want, but we have the personal responsibility to ensure that what we do doesn’t infringe upon others’ rights. We can dive fast, but we have to be aware there’s a penalty that could be paid for that behavior, and a responsibility to only drive as fast as the law allows. We can play our music as loud as we want, provided we make sure that we’re in a deserted area, or there are no neighbors that may not appreciate our playlist and the volume thereto.
Of course there really wasn’t a crime he could think of that he desperately wanted to commit, even with trying hard to determine one. And, being the attorney I am, digressed into the two parts of a crime – the actus reus and mens rea (the act and the mind-set) – so usually, to commit a crime, one must have intent, or act knowingly, purposefully, intentionally and willfully and, with that state of mind commit an act that is criminal – and I can see all of your eyes glazing over just as his did.
But that’s the symbiotic relationship between mindset, the law, the freedoms and the responsibilities we all share. To be free takes a great deal of work and vigilance. Even though I attempt, over and over, to let the little guy know that America is the greatest country in the world; that you can grow up to be or do (with the previous caveats in place) whatever you want. That your future isn’t decided (in most cases) based upon what religion you are, or what family you were born to or what part of the country you live in. This is, without a doubt, one of the best places to be born and live.
It’s just sometimes, it can be dispiriting when you see armed guards, militarized police and military vehicles around.

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