Although liberty is an unalienable right for countries around the world, we still haven’t reached a consensus on what freedom means, and what is and isn’t an exploitation of the freedom right.

As of late, we have experienced a decline in global freedom. Crumbling democracies and squashed expressions have led to exigent protests and riots. Military uprisings and coups have jeopardized the integrity of liberty in several countries. The decline of worldwide freedom has led to struggle and damage on a global scale.

On the other hand, abuse of the freedom right is and always has been a pressing issue that threatens the safety of the global population. The KKK and other extremists that misuse their rights are causing governments to consider limitations on expressive freedom for potentially harmful political groups.

Despite being incorporated into world governments since the beginning of democracy, freedom is still a disputed topic. No government nor society knows where to draw the line between complete control and full-on barbarity. Freedom is present in everything we do. It’s interpreted in infinite ways. It is our responsibility as the young people of our nations to analyze freedom from the broadest perspectives and come to a consensus on what global freedom should mean.

As per Oxford Languages, freedom is “the power or right to act, speak, or think as one wants without hindrance or restraint.” 

This definition seems agreeable, but if we treated it as law, there would be no end to the chaos it would cause. Allowing complete freedom is akin to having no rules, and no rules mean no guaranteed safety or stability. Crimes, threats, and murders are the first consequences that come to mind when imagining a society set to these standards, but subtler repercussions lurk beneath the surface. People would be allowed to do as they please no matter the severity of the action, leading to distrust in others and disassociation from communities. Businesses would fall, economies would crash, and society as we know it would cease to exist. 

We have mandates and laws in our communities that limit freedom and prioritize safety and peace. This is a necessary trade-off to keep humanity from abandoning civility, connection, and collaboration entirely. The definition of freedom does not conform to these standards. We must redefine it to fit the needs of citizens and governments alike. Freedom is like a spectrum. Full control exists on one end, and complete barbarity lies on the other. The key to defining freedom is to explore what lies in between.

As I previously mentioned, freedom is a concerning issue for a multitude of countries across the globe. Millions of people currently face liberal struggles that place them in difficult situations. Every country’s government should prioritize the prosperity of its citizens, yet freedom, a basic human right, has been robbed from states by their leaders. Exploring the liberal needs of people around the world may indicate what global freedom should be.

In Ukraine, as is the case in many countries, citizens face a crumbling democracy. In the 2023 edition of Freedom in the World by Freedom House, they state, “Whatever false justifications for this war of aggression have been promulgated by the Kremlin’s state-controlled media, its clear purpose is to remove the elected leadership in Kyiv and deprive Ukrainians of their fundamental right to free self-government.”

Freedom of expression has also long been an issue. Countries under unfavorable rule tend to suppress the voices of rebellious citizens, breaching the fundamental protection of liberty. Actions like these may seem wrong, yet grayer events may blur the lines. 

For instance, in the Brandenburg vs. Ohio court case, a Ku Klux Klan member was charged up to 10 years in prison for speaking on the downfall of African-Americans and Jews. The sentence may seem reasonable, yet Brandenburg’s case was surprisingly overturned. 

Despite the controversy of Brandenburg’s action, it would be wrong to place charges on the words he spoke. Freedom of expression protects even the most unpopular opinions because not doing so would undermine freedom entirely. The Supreme Court has expressed that the First Amendment is “the matrix, the indispensable condition of nearly every other form of freedom.” Understanding this concept is the key to drawing a boundary on freedom as a whole.

People deserve the freedom of actions, thoughts, and expressions. They deserve the freedom to partake in government and vote for the future of their country, as well as the freedom to express their opinion, no matter how unpopular it is. In the simplest words, people, no matter their upbringing or circumstances, deserve the liberty to live on their terms as long as they don’t infringe on the lives of others.

Altogether, global freedom takes on multiple meanings from different perspectives, yet there is a fundamental boundary I believe nearly everyone can agree on. The definition of freedom, while sounding like a dream come true, is too vague to encompass the entirety of society’s twists and turns. Restrictions must be imposed to maintain civility in our communities. When viewing our current issues with freedom, it’s clear that we all deserve to express ourselves and live our lives, yet infringing on others’ lives is a blurry boundary not to be crossed.

All in all, I believe that freedom is “The right to speak, act, think, and live on your terms, assuming you don’t threaten the safety and freedom of others.” This boundary allows for full liberty without breaching others’ rights. It’s a sturdy compromise, yet every wall has weak points. Freedom, no matter how natural, is a concept in progress. People are still pushing to receive their rights, and plenty of governments still strive for more democratic futures. As the young people of our nations, we must raise our voices for those who can’t and always aim for a freer future.

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