Just Another Word for Nothing Left to Lose

August 9, 2017 By Katherine Tyler Scott

“Freedom is just another word for nothing left to lose.”

These words immortalized in the raspy soul-filled rendition by Janis Joplin come to mind as most appropriate for these times. Times when civility is devalued, an independent press is under daily attack; national institutions are portrayed as enemies of the State, when we are blatantly bombarded with lies, and when ad hominem attacks on leaders are repeatedly tweeted from the highest office. I feel the ground of decency once shared by most, permanently shifting, leaving us abandoned and insular, fighting to avoid being sucked down any further.  I wonder if we have reached the place where we have nothing left to lose.

Will it be when we have lost familiar norms of decency and democracy, when we have steadily drifted toward disregard and disrespect for anyone who is different or who differs; when public servants are demonized and discounted; or when fear hangs so heavy in the air we choke on every breath? Will it be when craven and vulgar language and hostile discourse is the way our youth communicate? Or will it be when empathy is exchanged for the public humiliation of anyone who dares to comment on this toxic behavior?

When will freedom be just another word for nothing left to lose?

Perhaps it will be when more of us realize that silence is not an option, when our outrage is expressed in words that bring us together for the good of our Country, when we see that we are in crisis and express it in compelling voice and responsible action. Maybe it will be when we stop allowing the conditions of wealth and power to be excuses for egregious, abusive behavior; for exploiting the despair of those in poverty using their marginalization and grievances for personal gain and solidification of privilege. It might be when these angry followers stop cheering crass behavior and can see that this is despicable behavior regardless of ones’ title or position. I wonder if it will be the day when we look in the mirror and can’t recognize who we are or remember who we once aspired to be.

Or it just might be when we recognize that freedom is just another word for everything left to lose.