For the Fourth of July: Freedom is not Free (Excerpt from Exile)
Aboard the bright orange-and-blue boat, Liam climbed to the top deck and turned around and around, wanting to take it all in as the ship pulled away from the dock. His fear was replaced by wonder. Steel-and-glass towers, blue sky streaked with clouds, people who smiled without guile and helped and asked and answered questions without wanting anything in return. He held tight to the rail and braced his feet wide, loving the feel of the dark gray waves as they lapped against the steel hull.
On a distant island, a giant green statue of a woman came to view, her brow encircled with a crown and one hand aloft with a flaming torch. He thought of Queen May and understood her passion for this world. Who wouldn’t want to be here?
A little girl in a red-and-white-checked dress pointed at the green lady. “That’s the Statue of Liberty.”
The girl’s mother, obviously pregnant, her eyes hidden behind dark glasses, looked from her daughter to Liam. “Daria, leave the man alone.”
“She does not bother me,” Liam said. “I am new here. I’ve not seen these things. I do not know their names.”
“She’s a symbol,” the woman said.
“Of what?” he asked, each question through his lips a bit easier.
“Freedom. Your accent… I can’t quite place it. Irish?”
He nodded, not wanting to lie but knowing the truth was not for humans. “Freedom matters here.”
“Of course. It’s what Americans treasure most. Give us liberty or give us death. A lot of us forget just how precious it is and how easily it can be lost.”
He nodded, not certain what freedom meant. Freedom from whom? From what? From a queen who dines on her subjects and steals their magic. From a world where wrong words can have deadly consequences. “Freedom sounds like something worth fighting for.”
“Yes.” She lowered her shades. “That’s both the terrible and wonderful thing about it. We call it a right. Something that comes with citizenship, but there’s a price. As noble as it sounds and as that statue would have us believe, it’s not free. It comes at a tremendous cost, and even today, not everyone has it. The thing I don’t like to imagine is what would happen if we lost it. Some say we’ve already given up much of it, with new technologies and selling off our privacy. I just hope we don’t wake up one day and realize we’ve sold our freedom and our liberty for an endless stream of cute pet videos.”Exile