Around five o’clock every evening, the bells at Paris-Yates Chapel play a variety of songs. Listening to them play is a very peaceful experience, and they provide an excellent background for contemplation while walking through the quad. As they rang out “God Bless America,” I could not help but think about American freedom and how our ideas about it have changed over the past 245 years. Liberty was the cornerstone of America’s founding, yet an alarming amount of people today couldn’t seem to care less.
There are many ways to define freedom, but I feel the most relevant definition to our nation reads “liberation from slavery or restraint or from the power of another.” That was why we fought the American Revolution, after all. The colonists wanted independence from a tyrannical ruler and to govern themselves according to their own beliefs. Lately, it seems many of our freedoms are being challenged or blatantly disregarded, yet many Americans seem inclined to do nothing. We have become comfortable and take our freedoms for granted.
Most recently, we have seen this as a result of the COVID-19 virus. What began as a temporary quarantine in March 2020 quickly devolved into a year-and-a-half of mask mandates, mandatory quarantines and losses of jobs and homes. At both the federal and state levels, these things have been enforced upon American citizens. Despite many citizens protesting these restrictions, many government officials have persisted, claiming it is for our safety. However, it is not the government’s place to make these kinds of decisions on our behalf. This kind of overstepping inspired a revolution once before, but now too many citizens are asking for these restrictions, or at least tolerating them. Too few individuals are willing to risk their comfort by going against the mainstream, despite the danger this poses to their personal liberties.
Even at the University of Mississippi, we are currently operating under a mask mandate that was put in place on Aug. 5, 2021. Despite Oxford lifting their mandate, Ole Miss has persisted in continuing it, again with the claim of wanting to keep us safe. I state once more that that is a decision best made by the individual. It has gone so far that both the Associated Student Body and the University of Mississippi faculty senate both voted in favor of Institutions for Higher Learning instituting a vaccine mandate for students and staff. Thankfully, IHL declined, but the threat remains vivid in our minds.
The danger of these things is that too many individuals are fighting for these intrusions to take place. History tells us that people in power are not keen on giving it up once they have it. If we begin to allow these encroachments, even in seemingly small doses, we will eventually find that we do not have any freedoms left to give up. They will be taken from us by the few we gave them to, and I doubt we would get them back.
Ronald Reagan said it best: “Freedom is never more than one generation away from extinction.” So let’s let our generation be the one that fights for freedom, not the one that lets it slip away.
Hannah Newsom is a senior majoring in elementary education from Tupelo.