When I'm not traveling, I work food service jobs in Chicago, which, along with food stamps, helps me support my decadent hobby of freelance journalism. Sure, I could probably land some office job, working for the handful of people who own everything. But I'd rather not.What I learned about freedom from hitchhiking around America (The Guardian) To be 'free' in America is at risk of becoming meaningless. Our choices are often limited to two: to exploit or be exploited
To some, I might seem the poster boy for American freedom, making just enough money to write and travel and seek my fortune. But once the hope for eventual stability is taken out of this formula, which is the reality for more and more Americans, all that's left is the striving. And that doesn't look good for our brand of freedom.
Too often our lives are at the mercy of someone else's interests. A guy who took me from Douglas to Casper, Wyoming opened up about an awfully familiar dissonance in his life. He was around my age, two years of community college behind him, and working for one of the few employers in the desert: the natural gas industry. The problem was, he confided, "I know all about Gasland," the 2010 documentary that helped turn public sentiment against the environmentally destructive gas extraction process known as fracking, now his livelihood. His defense was that "it pays the bills", perhaps the closest thing my generation has to a motto.
I got a ride from a woman struggling with drug addiction, unable to support either her aging father or newborn grandson. I rode across Oregon in a big rig with an ex-cowboy who saw the ranching business automate and get taken over by giant farms, and who subsequently turned to truck driving, hauling freight well into retirement age. Sure, I encountered plenty of uplifting stories as well, sometimes from these same people. And my own experience of thumbing across the west approached, at times, true liberty. But I was surrounded by dissatisfaction and striving – a predicament I felt I was only temporarily escaping. In this tenor, the refrain "at least I know I'm free" sounds less like a line from a prideful anthem than from a sobering prayer.
If I could paint the country in one broad stroke, I would say it's a place where one concept of freedom – used to lobby for private interests and free markets – is at odds with another kind: the ability to lead a life you enjoy. Fewer and fewer seem privileged with this second kind. Not Trayvon Martin, who was a victim of a certain kind of racism which had, as its root, private property anxiety. Not the natural gas employee who has consigned himself to a life of doing something that he feels ought not to be done. Even I – who have managed to escape from time to time – always find, upon return, a cordial invitation to fall in line.
Related: Living in a rich society (Ian Welsh)