Sixties folkie Donovan said, “Freedom is a word I rarely use without thinking.” There are many go-to lines from somewhere that people can recall for a certain concept – that one comes to me for “freedom.” Donovan’s comment makes me think of many possible concepts we thoughtlessly abuse.
I am sitting here writing while watching Gerard Depardieu as Georges Danton facing execution during the Terror period of the French Revolution. “They kill freedom before your very eyes and you do nothing,” Danton tells his guards. Georges Danton was a man executed by the revolution he helped lead. The French Revolution was a history subject that came up in high school from the same teaching team that gave us The Catcher in the Rye and Dr. Strangelove in the curriculum. I would find Napoleon disappointing afterwards. I think I even told my teacher I didn’t want to write about the pretentious Corsican. I was told to write about why I didn’t like him. After all that effort, could there not have been a better idea than another dictatorial force? That sounds like hippie idealism now that I’m looking at it and that class was 31 years ago.
“Freedom fries” was a phrase used to sell potatoes to Americans when France disagreed with their government. However, what more ubiquitous symbol of freedom is there than New York’s Statue of Liberty? The statue arrived as a gift from France. Freedom is something that takes effort. The efforts of the past will be echoed in the future, because we are living in the freedom that came from the work of individuals in the past. There are easier choices that could have been made. France gave us the “Rights of Man” and more concepts of freedom would be heard in the West subsequent to these rights. These were universally intended, not just for the West.
Freedom is as large a concept as air or water. Freedom can feed so many possibilities. Losing it can mean darkness and death.
Reinhardt lives in Boyle Street with his wife, Keri Breckenridge.