I used to work for the federal government a long time ago, and when people ask me how it was, I simply state that it was not for me. It was a job that did not satisfy my ambition; and one with ambition should not settle for a job that seeks to promote on a snail speed. I simply didn’t feel that I could achieve much on the GS (Government Service) ride and its pyramid of promotions.
Moreover, in working for the federal government I felt a little suffocated since I was pretty restricted on what I could do in public, and sometimes in private; and this sent a wave of uncertainty about what freedom was to me. The irony was that I worked for a government in a country that was all about freedom, but I seldom had it working for the Federal Government. Needless to say, I left the job.
But even years later, the job haunts me and my desire to leave it behind, like a reflection of a pinhead in the rearview mirror, it keeps coming up just when I think it has disappeared for good.
Recently, I received a letter from the Office Of Personnel Management, that someone had hacked their account and my information was one of the ones affected. I needed to monitor my account, they said and to sign up for the “Free” security company assigned to save my credit score and reputation.
I wasn’t upset, at first. In fact, I was rather relieved that I would get a notice alerting me that those awful things on my record were going to be removed. But then I started to receive threatening letters from companies, to whom money was owed on accounts that were not even mine. I began to get irate.
The irony was, during my job I was prohibited from activities so that this type of problem would not arise, but even without my being in the government, people could access my information from this data bank and “target” me as a deadbeat. I don’t know what bothered more, the lack of freedom that I had while working in the government or the lack of privacy having left the government.
Freedom is defined as the absence of necessity, coercion, or constraint in choice or action (Webster’s Dictionary). And yet, we carefully maneuver ourselves to be within the bounds of limitations in order to keep our job, in our free market. For example, while working for the Federal Government, I couldn’t say that I was a conservative, especially if my boss was not. So in order to keep my job in a place that protected my freedoms, I had to relinquish my freedom of speech, and it hardly seemed appropriate at the time or now years later.
When I argue to protect the First Amendment, I feel that I am protecting an illusion. We are free to speak, UNLESS……we do or say something that offends the rest, so state the limitations. By the time we finish listing the limitations, we are left with a small window by which we can speak our mind and be protected by the First Amendment. It doesn’t feel real. It feels as though our freedom is controlled and therefore illusory. The fear of speaking up is more real, than the fear of losing the Freedom that is ours, especially under the 1st amendment.
Lately the use of words, and what flag we fly, seem more controlled because of a growing discontent on who is offended. And we have to wonder whether that laws that seeks to define the 1st Amendment, is constrained by protection or control. We are a society that seeks to please people, perhaps because we want something from them; therefore, we must control our thoughts and behavior so as to not offend anyone.
Businesses want money, so we say anything to make people spend. Politicians want votes, so they say what they can excite people to vote. And finally, we want acceptance so we use the media to show how our differences make us weak and acceptable to those passing judgement. Suddenly, freedom feels like a life inside a small shoebox where we must keep it contained and controlled in order to survive in America. It hardly feels like the land of free or the home of the brave. It feels like the land of restraints.