(Freedom is the best thing that can be sought all around the world.)
Sometimes there are little ditties stuck somewhere in the crevices of one’s mind - those songs of the past from school - that all of a sudden sing out to meet a new historical moment and in doing so become renewed. On the early morning walk with Ellie the dog and my husband this freedom song made its way out of the crevices of my husband’s mind to meet my thought for the morning.
“Freedom always wins,” I said. What I meant by this was that no matter how much oppression there is in the world, what we witness time after time with increasing intensity is just this. Many have suffered and lost their lives, but humanity seems to move in that direction in every crisis that it faces, and win over the reverse tendency toward oppression and dictatorship. That was about the sum of my thought.
I suspected that my husband would rebuff the thought immediately, tell me that I was naïve and come up with many well-crafted arguments that would deconstruct my beautiful construction for the morning. The neo-fascist times that we live in don’t, after all, appear on the surface to support my idea. Instead, he blurted out this little ditty and in doing so agreed with me. I was left speechless.
Eager to learn about the origins of this song, I plugged it into Google upon returning home and found that it was the brainchild of 15th century Swedish bishop Thomas Simonsson of Strängnäs, and often used in the political struggle against the Danish oppressors. In Bishop Thomas’s world freedom meant national freedom and the right to self-determination.
I thought about whether freedom today meant something else and indeed I think it does, but I found myself repeating this song as the events and thoughts of the day unfolded. Today’s newspaper documented the terrible floods in the Balkans. People have died, homes have been destroyed and land mines from the war at previously known locations are now floating about threatening to blow up at any moment. Amid all of this horror, there is a beautiful glimmer of light, and it is people who have created it. A man who had withstood torture in a concentration camp goes into the homes of his oppressors to save them from the floods. Ethnic divisions are floating away with the tide. That is freedom today.
Later on in the day I found myself in a conversation about the way that the upsurge of fascist tendencies in Europe might actually force us to improve the quality of our democracies. Most who fall into these movements are simply dissatisfied with how democracy is working or not working, and are not particularly grabbed by any particular ideology. Suddenly there is some point and meaning in the seeming reversion to reactionary thinking. How do we improve the quality of our democracies so that they become better, perhaps even something new? Hundreds of thousands, perhaps millions of people are thinking about it because of what is happening, and because there is truth in the Bishop’s song.
Freedom will always win because it is the best thing that can be sought.