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 Today's Take:  NCR's daily Web column
Each weekday over the course of a week, a member of the NCR staff offers a commentary on one or more topics in the news.  It's our way of introducing you to some of the people carrying out the NCR mission of faith and justice based journalism.

April 14, 2003
Vol. 1, No. 7




global perspective

Freedom from is not the same thing as freedom for

by Sister Rita Larivee, SSA, associate publisher of NCR

Recent days in Baghdad have been filled with looting and chaos. Not an unexpected situation following the takeover of a city within a war-torn environment. But the images coming out of Baghdad make it difficult to understand the meaning of words like freedom and liberation. It is true that the Iraqi people are free from Saddam Hussein's regime, but beyond that there is great uncertainty.

Freedom from something is not the same thing as freedom for something.

I may have freedom of speech, but for what purpose? There may be a free press, but to what end? Freedom without responsibility is misguided freedom at best.

The American libertarian tradition, upon which the United States is built, must not be the controlling view upon which the future of the Iraqi and the world communities are constructed. American society has become a cauldron for litigation with a lifestyle that is riddled with commercialism, racism, sexism -- to name but a few of the ism's holding the U.S. in bondage.

How can such a world view come to the rescue of another nation?

There is much that is good about the United States, but its sense of freedom is often held hostage by its sense of self-indulgence. We see our freedom as something we possess rather than something we do.

Freedom is about choice. It's about choosing between what we want or makes us feel good and what is true to who we are as social beings and members of a global community. Freedom is about discernment and dialogue. It's about searching for the best choice that fits the truth of what it means to be in union with other countries.

Freedom is not about unilateral decisions or coalitions made up of the strongest military forces. It's about finding solutions to hunger, the spread of AIDS, displaced populations, the oppression of women, and other humanitarian concerns that have little to do with bombs and guns.

The price of freedom must not be limited to the number of lives given or those injured. The price of freedom is about living with less so others may have more. It's about listening when, as a nation, we have become so accustomed to doing the talking. It's about learning to see through the eyes of others before choosing our course of action.

As French Foreign Minister Dominique de Villepin said, "Any one nation can win a war, but it takes many nations to win peace." So, too, any one nation can think it possesses the truth, but it takes many nations to discern and carry out the truth.

The United States military campaign "Operation Iraqi Freedom" may have brought down a regime, but it is not about freedom. Freedom is a collective movement that assumes a collective responsibility. If we are to find hope in all of this, it can only be through the renewed efforts of the United Nations to recover the unity of the international community and to take a leading role in rekindling the embers of freedom in the truest sense of the word, and in particular as it applies to the Iraqi people.  

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