As I prepare to go away for a week, I’m thinking about freedom.

I’m free, now, to go where I want when I want—within certain limitations. Is that what the founding fathers meant?

I’m free to travel, as long as I have the price of the fare.

I’m free to live as I like, as long as I can pay my bills.

I’m free to enjoy the protection of the police and firefighters, our armed forces and emergency services; I’m free to take advantage of public education, to walk, bicycle and drive on public rights of way—as long as I pay my taxes.

I’m free to have a wonderful dog, my sweet Betty, as long as I care for her well.

I’m free to give my opinions, whatever they are, as long as I accept the consequences.

I’m free to create characters and worlds in my fiction, as long as I have the discipline and commitment to carry my projects through to completion.

(On second thought, anyone is free to create anything. The conditions arise only if you want to be published/displayed/viewed—whatever kind of public acknowledgment your art form entails.)

And according to the Supreme Court, I’m free to carry a gun, as long as I obey the laws about doing so. (That’s a frightening thought. Mind you, if I found myself in a situation where I had to hunt for food, I’d be grateful for a gun. I only fear that whatever the ideal scenario, it’s too easy for criminals to get weapons.)

I’m free to practice my religion—or not. I cannot imagine being in a culture where religious observance is forced upon me. I think of the women in some Islamic countries, who are subjugated to their male family members in the name of religion, and my heart sinks.

We should, truly, cherish our freedoms. They are a privilege and a responsibility. Whatever the dysfunction of our governmental systems, checks and balances are in place to protect the basic rights of every human being. That doesn’t mean that everything is always fair, or that some groups do not suffer discrimination.

Only that it is our will as a country to work toward that.