Term Paper: Freedom's Challenge

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Freedom's Challenge

Wright Mills so famously wrote, "Freedom is not merely the opportunity to do as one pleases; neither is it merely the opportunity to choose between set alternatives. Freedom is, first of all, the chance to formulate the available choices, to argue over them - and then the opportunity to choose."

As Americans today, we live in a world of choices. Our homes, a motley assortment of tenements, mansions, apartments, and average two-story houses like mine, line streets from the Atlantic to the Pacific with the promise of freedom, the security of protection, and the responsibilities of liberty. Paved of the convictions and hard work of generations that have come before, these streets are full of more than just gravel and rocks and cement - they are the nesting grounds of hope.

When I was younger, I would listen to the stories my grandfather told me about playing outside when he was a young boy - you could run from house to house, free as a bird from the oversight of parents, terrorizing the neighbor's dog, greeting the postman, playing kick the can. You were allowed to run and kick and play ball and explore learn the strength of your own two legs beneath you. You were allowed to grow. You were free to grow.

My childhood was spent in the backyard of my house; my father, a fireman, instilled in me the promise of safety, and my mother, an entrepeneur, encouraged me to try out my own strengths and skills. My neighborhood is safe, my public school is good, and my tiny community let me grow up with the idea that it is in normal to ride your bike to school, pack your lunch in a superman lunch box, and study the ideas of the revolution with the heart of a young patriot.

This idea of the American Childhood, a celebration of freedom and firecrackers on the Fourth of July and streets safe enough to play, came crashing down for me one day walking home from school when I was 12. I'd like to think I'm built like my dad, but the truth is I'm just tall for my age, and when other sixth-graders were still waiting for their growth-spurts to hit, I had already become what seemed to me the size of a professional basketball player sinking down into his too-small desk at school, all legs and arms and ankles. A few seniors from the high school saw me, and thinking I was one of the kids in their grade who had escaped whatever social indoctrination bullying is, mugged and beat me, leaving me bloody and changing my world forever. My grandfather was 12 and playing stickball; I was 12 and hobbling home.

The bruises healed, as bruises do, but the scar this left on my idea of the world has yet be so mollified.

My home had always been a place of safekeeping, a place where I was free to be me, and now it is a place where I'd be lying if I didn't admit I sometimes feel a pang of fear.

But what am I so afraid of? The bigger bullies? I am bigger now, and none of them would lay a… [END OF PREVIEW]

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