By Miranda Pietschman, Events and Communications Coordinator
Every Fourth of July, our country takes time to reflect on and celebrate the freedoms we have. We proclaim ourselves to be the ‘Land of the Free’ because we wholeheartedly believe that every person on American soil has the freedom to make their own choices. We compare ourselves to countries where there are restrictive laws and oppressive regulations and say that every person who lives in the United States is lucky – lucky to be free.
But can our assertion of ‘Land of the Free’ still count if individuals are living in modern-day slavery? Many believe that human trafficking is a problem that exists in third-world countries, and that, “it could never happen here….would never happen here.”
But it does happen here—and often. In fact, since 2016, 150 sex trafficking investigations have been opened in Tennessee alone (source: TBI). In the last 3 years, that’s a minimum of 150 lives changed by being forced or coerced into modern-day slavery. That’s 150 individuals whose freedom to make choices is limited or completely taken away. Those are women, men, and children who don’t decide what time they want to wake up in the morning, whether they eat, or when they use the bathroom. In fact, they don’t even have the power to make the most fundamental decisions about their own bodily autonomy. They don’t choose who they have sex with, when, or where. And when human beings do not have these basic and fundamental choices, are we really the ‘Land of the Free’? When individual freedoms are so limited that lives depend on following orders, can we really be the ‘Land of the Free’?
This Fourth of July, we challenge you to think about those living in the United States without the freedom of choice. We challenge you to think about the survivors whose parents force them to have sex with neighbors or drug dealers so they can get their fix. We challenge you to think about the individuals whose lives are threatened if they don’t perform a specific task or job on demand. We hope that this Fourth of July, you take a moment to reflect on what freedom of choice means to you and then challenge those around you to do the same. Freedom shouldn’t just be for those who are lucky – freedom should be for all.