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Divided We Fall

Posted on July 13 2016

The news has been riddled with violence in recent days. Between the killings of police officers and the killings of two citizens, its hard not to be caught up in the conversation. I feel we are missing a very complex piece of the problem though when we only see the issues of race and the abuse of power. What I'd like to do is add another underlying layer to the issue with the hopes it will help us understand the situations beyond those lenses.

I hear the conversation that humans are unique because of our ability to practice free will. I will use Plato's definition of free will: is a philosophical term of art for a particular sort of capacity of rational agents to choose a course of action from among various alternatives. With the idea of free will comes the concept of liberty and freedom. Both of these words are very different.

Liberty has multiple meanings in different contexts. They are as follows:

1. freedom from arbitrary or despotic government or control.
2. freedom from external or foreign rule; independence.
3. freedom from control, interference, obligation, restriction, hampering conditions, etc.; power or right of doing, thinking, speaking, etc., according to choice.
4. freedom from captivity, confinement, or physical restraint

Notice how freedom is used to describe liberty. Now let's unpack freedom:
1. the state of being free or at liberty rather than in confinement or under physical restraint:
2. exemption from external control, interference, regulation, etc.
3. the power to determine action without restraint.
What do both of these terms have in common? The ability to act and move without impedance of an outside force.

So, now lets take a look at what law enforcement and authority is. Law enforcement is defined as "any system by which some members of society act in an organized manner to enforce the law by discovering, deterring, rehabilitating, or punishing people who violate the rules and norms governing that society.

Now we define authority: the power to give orders or make decisions : the power or right to direct or control someone

Inherent in the enforcement of law comes authority which directly contradicts freedom and liberty.  As a nation built upon the ideas of liberty and freedom, I find this to be a really big issue inherent in our system. We as human beings naturally desire to be free yet we have invented this rule of law in which limits our liberties. At what point do we draw a line and ask ourselves "should authority never be questioned for the simple fact that it can ultimately deny ones liberty/freedom in its entirety with no due process?" Or even better, "How much power will we allow authority to have over liberty without question?"

I acknowledge that some people do bad things and must answer to the consequences of their actions. However, how much of this judgement do we allow individuals actors of authority to have over individual actors in their liberty? I feel this is the underlying issue and that race colors that issue so we cant tackle it.

“Disobedience is the true foundation of liberty. The obedient must be slaves.”
Henry David Thoreau

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