Franklin D. Roosevelt came up with the idea of the Four Freedoms in 1941 with an aim of improving global relations after Second World War. He provided the world with a foundation for ethical world leadership. The Four Freedoms offered a paradigm of grand strategies by promoting rational decision-making processes that improved justice system, ensured prosperity, and strengthened security. Since the ending of two world wars, the Four Freedoms have remained a useful basis for providing a framework for US policy making, especially in relation to promoting liberty and human dignity of its citizens. The US Government has protected and honored the freedom of American citizens at home and abroad. However, this has elicited arguments among scholars on the role played by the US Government in protecting and honoring the Four Freedoms of American citizens. This paper aims to define the degree to which the United States Government has honored and protected the Four Freedoms of its citizens in the post-World War II era. To achieve this goal, the paper presents various views of different scholars and activists.
The US Government protected and honored America’s freedoms by creating and administering human rights acts. As argued by Reagan, the US Government established American Political Foundation that enhanced active participation of US citizens in promoting their freedom and rights. This foundation, which enabled both national Republican and Democratic parties to cooperate for strengthening democracy, called for equal participation and involvement of American citizens through political representation in promoting their freedoms. Through business, labor, and social affairs American citizens were allowed to choose their own way of exercising their cultures and developing their own approaches to reconciling their differences. This gave Americans the freedom to choose their leaders as they were allowed to vote.
In the post-World War II era, the US Government committed itself to satisfying basic economic and social needs of American citizens. For instance, all states committed to provide better education for children through their constitutions. Since economic and social rights were granted by the law, the Government was obligated to act rationally as well as to provide equal protection to citizens under the law. According to the Four Freedoms, peace should not only guarantee civil and political rights, but it also has to ensure economic security and opportunities. This notion was depicted by Anne Moody when she realized that civil rights movement did not improve the lives of people in Mississippi because it was only focused on political and civil rights. Therefore, she suggested that the movement should also focus on economic issues such as helping oppressed farmers to buy their own land.
Federal Law of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 prohibited discrimination in employment on the basis of sex. This Act created a platform upon which women empowerment was built. The American Law and the amendments which were made in Constitution in 1960s protected civil rights of all individuals ensuring equal opportunities in education and employment. They also advocated equality of political and civil rights and responsibilities on behalf of women.
The US Government proposed legislation, which intended to promote and restore freedom of religious speech among public students. Eidenmuller notes that religious discrimination was the problem that hindered free participation of some students in religious activities that were presided by public institutions. Therefore, by proposing a religious act, the US Government was countering religious repression, single political party system, and rigid authoritarian cultures. These steps clearly demonstrated its readiness to protect and honor freedoms of Americans.
On the other hand, Reagan noted that the US Government aimed to strengthen NATO to reduce the number of ballistic missile warheads that posed threats to global peace. He pointed out that, in most cases, the US directed its forces through NATO into violence-prone countries with the aim of promoting peace and suppressing actions that resulted in worldwide crisis of human dignity. NATO’s intervention was aimed at destroying nations that possessed mass destruction weapons and threatened global peace. For example, US Government engaged in war with the aim of fighting Islamic fundamentalism associated with terrorism in Afghanistan and Iraq. This intervention was meant not only to fight terror, but also to liberate oppressed Arabian population. The US Government was involved in these operations as well as in the Vietnam War in order to ensure people’s freedom from fear.
Contrary to the principles of the Four Freedoms, there were certain spheres where the US Government did not protect the freedom of American citizens during the post-World War II era. Most of Americans encountered hardships in freely exercising their freedoms. For example, Anne Moody, African-American writer and activist, claimed that her ability to freely exercise her rights was undermined by her mother. According to Moody, her efforts to fight for equal rights for African Americans were undermined by her mother, who was scared that her daughter was endangering her life by her actions. Her mother continuously begged Anne to stick to the traditional behaviors that would make her be just like all other people in their rural community. However, Government’s effort to provide policy framework that accounted for parents’ participation, especially in situations presented by Moody, was seen as an act of undermining children’s freedom.
Furthermore, in his 1983 speech to the National Association of Evangelicals, Reagan pointed out that US Government’s policy of funding clinics that advised and provided girls with birth control drugs created heated debates. According to Eidenmuller, this approach ensured that parents were notified before such help was given to their children. This act which maximized parents’ participation at the same time undermined the freedom of American children. It is such acts that demonstrated that the US Government denied equal freedoms for its citizens.
Additionally, the US Government did not protect the freedom o people to organize civil rights movements. When civil activist Medgar Evers appeared on national broadcasting television in Jackson to advocate for racial justice, he was murdered. According to Moody, racial inequality was evident as African Americans were widely discriminated. She notes that US Government authorities passively observed as various institutions oppressed African Americans. For instance, peaceful sit-in demonstrations organized by civil rights activists to counter racial discriminations against African Americans were oppressed by government authorities. Barnwell notes that “It seemed the organization had a rough time finding students who were in a position to go to jail.”
Moody notes that the US Government did not protect rights of African Americans who were widely discriminated against. This was due to the fact that most public institutions did not allow African Americans to freely participate in various events. For instance, Moody writes that her parents were not allowed to attend her graduation ceremony because of their skin color. Furthermore, African Americans were not allowed to freely socialize with whites. In most cases, there were designated areas in social or recreational sites, where they were not allowed to intermingle with white Americans. This was evident when Moody and her friends were told to go to the back stage of a restaurant they attended designated specifically for blacks. While still insisting to sit in the same room with white Americans in the restaurant, they were ignored by the white waitress who refused to serve them.
According to the discussion of different issues raised by Moody, the US Government was forced by people through different civil movements to guarantee the Four Freedoms. For instance, the movement which was aimed to end racial segregation forced US Government to build new schools for black students. New amendments to the Constitution also guaranteed African Americans equal rights. The Government, however, ignored some regions in enforcing the rule of law. This angered Moody a lot and prompted her to write how the US Federal government stopped to enforce the rule of law in the South. Failure to enforce the rule of law allowed whites to terrorize blacks and made them feel like second-class citizens.
Moreover, O’Brien points out that the US Government subjected American citizens to a war that created fear and undermined their freedom. For instance, he points out that the involvement o US in the Vietnam War in 1968 was more due to aggressiveness than for liberation. As he notes “one month after his graduation from Macalester College, he was drafted to engage in the fight he hated.” The war, as he noted, seemed to be not a source of unity, but rather provided American citizens with freedom to choose whether to engage in the war or not. This is because the US Government closed down basic informatory institutions such as education centers leaving Americans with no chance to idle and go to war. Therefore, the US Government did not give American citizens a chance to freely exercise their freedom of expression, which was against the Four Freedoms.
In conclusion, the Four Freedoms have promoted formulation of policy framework, which agitated for equality and protection of human rights. There was a need for the US Government to effectively enact and implement legislation that intended to protect and honor freedoms of its citizens. There was also a need for the Government to use mechanisms that fought discrimination among citizens. Finally, the government needed to create international intervention strategies that did not hinder global participation in promoting democracy and human rights.