Liberty is Personal – “Thou Shall Not Speak” told by Mike M.
I guess I could say I’ve been a fan of liberty
for a long time. You know, I mean in the academic, sort of intellectual, booky, nerdish kind
of way. But this past fall, I was studying abroad in Russia, and I had the chance to
maybe make liberty a little bit more personal in my own life. When I was there, I met up with a friend of
mine, Lena, who is a Westerner living in Belarus. In Russia, things have improved a lot since
the downfall of the Soviet Union, but Belarus is still a police state through and through.
It’s authoritarian, totalitarian, and any other way you could describe it. When we met up in Russia, she was able to
share with me this experience that she had where her and some other students at the university
that she’s with were trying to organize a human rights conference, you know, just a
few kids getting together and talking about some ideas. But sometimes in Belarus it’s
really hard to do things like that. They managed to get approval for the conference,
and everything looked like it was like a green light. But on the day of the event, she showed
up with the rest of the organizers at the building, and there was police outside. They
said that the conference will not be happening. And the look on her and her friend’s faces
as she sort of walked up to the building, she says, you see their eyes kind of go down,
and this, I don’t know, wave kind of goes over you where, you know, this is just like
it always turns out. And when she was telling me about this I kind
of realized how important it is for our personal identity, for our notions of who we are, that
we have ideas and we get to communicate them with other people. But when you’re not allowed
to share those ideas, you’re robbed of who you really are. So that’s when liberty got
a little more personal for me.