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Freedom of Speech—Freedom from Fear

Fear is stalking the land. It is stealing our freedoms and our love. I implore you to take back your love in this week’s edition of “Isn’t That Ironic?”.

"Freedom of Speech" by Norman Rockwell

Are you familiar with the American painter, Norman Rockwell? This is his famous painting titled, “Freedom of Speech” It is one of a series he painted during the Second World War war—the four freedoms. They were: freedom of speech, freedom of religion, freedom from want, freedom from fear.

Norman Rockwell is such a beloved painter because he painted real people, in real life. Part of his genius was that his paintings don’t just show a scene. They tell a story. And they were often inspired by real events. Such is the case with, "Freedom of Speech."

One evening in 1942, Rockwell attended the town meeting in Arlington, Vermont, where he lived for many years. On the agenda was the construction of a new school. It was a popular proposal, supported by everyone in attendance — except for one resident, who stood up to express his dissenting view. In Rockwell's scene, the man speaks his mind, unafraid to express a minority opinion and not intimidated by the status of those he's challenging. And while his neighbors may disagree, they're willing to hear what he has to say.

Look at his face. He shows no fear. He is a simple working man, plainly dressed. Amongst those who listen, are older and better-dressed men, clearly of higher status, wealth, and education. They listen politely, with obvious interest. They are not threatened by his dissenting opinion. There is no trace of feigned moral outrage that he would object to building a new school.

Particularly for those of you who are younger, I want you to know that there was a time when such an experience was common. We used to be able to disagree with one another without fear of retaliation. We could express even the most outlandish, ridiculous, unpopular ideas without fear of being insulted, fired, “canceled”, boycotted, slandered, arrested. Alas, that time is no more.

Today, most of us are afraid to even speak what is on our hearts. A recent poll by the Cato Institute in the United States found that two-thirds of adults say that, given the current political climate, they're afraid to honestly express their views. I think exactly the same thing is true everywhere. It’s true for me. I’m afraid to express my views in public.

And so, this ever-present dread has settled in. For fear of offending someone, challenging books go untaught in our schools. Deep conversations aren't had. Friendships aren't formed. Classmates and colleagues eye each other with suspicion or contempt. Even the grocery stores are full of bandits. I can’t recognize anyone. I refuse to wear a mask and all I see are pairs of furtive eyes above a train robber’s kerchief. Ninety percent of human communication is non-verbal. I can’t see their faces. I don’t know whether those furtive eyes look upon me with anger, with fear, with jealousy, with hatred. They look at me for a moment and then shuffle off to the bananas. Every place reeks of fear. I hate it. I hurry home with my groceries and ponder, “What have I become?”

Many of us have allowed fear to overtake love in our hearts. As the Master Teacher said, there is nothing to fear. Fear is the opposite of love. You might think that hate is the opposite of love, but hate is really a manifestation of fear. Look carefully at what you hate and you will find fear underneath it. Fear is always opposed to love. Where fear grows, love dies. That’s what is happening to us. We now fear our neighbors instead of loving them. Love your neighbor as yourself, Jesus said. Do not fear your neighbor. And yet, that’s what we’re doing.

Fear is insidious. Fear is debilitating. Fear enslaves. Fear destroys. If God is Love, as St. John says, what do you think is the opposite of love?

You are an eternally free child of God. You are an eternal being of light and love. That is who you are. Be, who you are. Be free. Be light unto the world. Be love.

Your body will become ill from time to time. Your body will wither away and die sometime. This is certain. But it is not to be feared. There is nothing to fear. Live in love—total love—and fear nothing.

Most of all, do not fear your brothers and sisters. They will not kill you. Keep your body healthy and this virus will not kill you. If you become ill, your doctor can prescribe a medicine that will restore your health. This minor illness is perfectly treatable. No one should die of Covid-19 any longer.

Open your hearts to love. Love one another with the unquenchable love that our divine creator placed into your hearts. And perfect love will cast out all fear.

God Bless You!

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