Pronunciation: /free-duh m/
“For to be free is not merely to cast off one’s chains, but to live in a way that respects and enhances the freedom of others” – Nelson Mandela
Today is the 5th of May, and therefore it’s Liberation Day in the Netherlands. 70 years ago today we were freed from the German oppression during the Second World War. And we still celebrate that fact, together with honouring the values of democracy, human rights and freedom in general. And on the 4th of May, we take a moment (120 seconds to be exact) to be silent and remember the innocents who fell during WW II.
But that’s enough history for today. Especially because it’s about World War II and I hate everything about it. I don’t understand why or how people could do those unspeakable things to each other (and make whole parts of the world believe it never happened – but it did!).
Really, I was watching a part of Schindler’s List yesterday and that was the only thought my mind could produce: How can people do that to each other? HOW? I don’t think I’ll ever understand (which is a good thing, I suppose).
Anyway, the whole “Yay we’re free”-celebrations (which, again, consists of visiting festivals where they play loud music and getting drunk while at it – see Royal), got me thinking: what is freedom? What does it mean? To me?
I think being free means being able to be yourself, regardless of race, colour or descent. I believe being free means there’s nobody holding you back, not literally, not figuratively. There’s no war raging in your surroundings, there’s no laws breaking your rights to be a human being, and there’s no moralistic looking down upon you, just because you choose to be yourself. I think that describes what my idea of freedom. In essence, I simply wholly agree with Nelson Mandela.
Freedom is not calling “gay marriage” gay marriage, but just marriage. Freedom is not calling people by colour, but calling them by their names. Freedom is not calling the “third generation immigrants” the third generation immigrants, because those do not exist (according to my country’s law “third generation immigrants” are considered 100% Dutch, yet politicians still call them immigrants for no good reason).
Freedom is so much more than being saved from a war. Although, of course, I am beyond thankful for the soldiers helping European countries fight back and break the iron grip of the nazi’s. My grandparents survived the war, so yes, eternally grateful I am indeed. I can’t imagine what it must be like, to be forced to eat tulip bulbs for dinner because there’s no other food. Or to be forced to take cover because your religious denomination makes you a target for cruelty.
So no, I don’t mean to state that the freedom we celebrate today in the Netherlands is pathetic, because it is not. It is, in my honest opinion, incredibly important we keep on remembering being freed, so we’ll never have to be freed again.
But let’s not stop here. Let’s not think we’ve made it already, because we haven’t. We have merely just begun and the road is long. Let’s all think deeply about what freedom means to us, and then we’ll find that Nelson Mandela was right all along.
I wish you all a happy Liberation Day!