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Morgan Charrette

Mrs. Wold

ERWC, Per. 5

17 March 2019

An Essay of Freedom and Safety (Original from Sophomore Year)

An American writer and social critic by the name of H.L. Mencken once had written,

“The average man does not want to be free. He simply wants to be safe.” There are different

values and sides of the statement that are applicable to contemporary society in a myriad of

ways. There is some truth to Mencken’s claim, however, that truth only goes so far. There’s a

sort of puzzling paradox here, as freedom and safety can be two sides of the same coin, but

completely unique categories at the same time.

In its most basic observation, freedom can go hand-in-hand with safety. To be free

sometimes means to be safe. And vice-versa. After the American Civil War, the slaves that were

freed found a new-found safety in their liberation. They escaped torment and torture and the

constant overbearing watch of the cruel plantation owners and terrible people. It’s easy for

people to connect freedom with safety in their minds because one can be derived from the other.

It can be freedom from the abstract or the concrete, the mental or physical. You are free of

shame, therefore you are safe from regret. You are free of a harrowing situation, therefore you

are consequently free of pain. It is only when you truly scrutinize this logic, when this ideal

grows narrower and narrower, and Mencken’s claims seem more transparent.

In a complete twist from what was previously thought, comes the complex paradox of the

situation at hand: Safety doesn’t always mean freedom. It completely challenges the first
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statement and turns it on its head. Similarly enough, however, there are more discrepancies to

this idea than previously perceived. You can be safe without being free. You can be safe from an

abusive relationship but never entirely free of the aftermath. Just as you can beat cancer but not

be free of the possibility of it coming back. The aftermath of something is not a tangible thing

but it can present itself in tangible forms. The most dangerous characteristic of it isn’t the action

that follows--but the memories that haunt you. You are not free from your thoughts--they’re

inescapable, even when at the present you are free of whatever had been trapping you in

place--in the mind or through real-world experience. And with this comes another fallacy to

Mencken’s claim.

The fight for freedom isn’t always a safe one. This is the most blatant truth of all. It’s

evident everywhere around us in today’s society. You need only to turn on the news to witness

brave men and women fighting for our country’s freedom, and stemming from that, safety.

People are fighting for freedom from their oppressors. Women march the streets for equality as

well as African Americans who need equal rights. And unfortunately, these battles aren’t always

safe. Freedom, like safety, comes at a cost, and at times, one can be the expense for the other.

Even more perplexing are the derivatives of both ideals. Safety can bring out oppressors who’s

very battle-cries are that of the well-being of others, while also limiting their freedoms. Liberty

can bring forth complication that compromise the safety of its own image at the barest

root--causing those to question: At what expense?

Freedom and safety are more than just two sides of the same promising face--they’re so

much more. How they affect our society can have its triumph, as well as consequences. How we

choose to defend both as individuals and as a society has its outcomes.

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