Let Freedom ring!

This was the 2nd assignment of the Susan Shie drawing group I joined in January 2021.

Looking at my journal, I see we had snow the day this theme was created. Thought that would be the last of it!

I am glad I wrote down some thoughts about this drawing as 5 weeks is a long time ago, or so it seems now. The theme comes from the song ‘ America, my country, Tis of thee’ I wrote, ‘I refuse to get wrapped up in the patriotism of that slogan.’ I am not happy about any flag wrapping patriotism as I just see a lot of damage in this country and in my own homeland. So I had to think of ways to describe Freedom without the Liberty Bell or the USA flag, which others in the group picked on and made it a broader issue.

In light of the previous administration, which had just expired and was open to the path of hate speech, I began an internet search on the notion of Freedom. Actually, no one is ‘free’, but there are moral boundaries that help to make us feel as if we are ‘free’. Morality seems to be one of the things that seem to be disappearing as more and more of us think of just ourselves and not the community at large; by that, I mean worldwide. I am just as guilty as most people of this as I sit in my safe house and my safe life, but I am aware it’s a precarious state. I could fall ill with Covid and suddenly, that safety net is exposed to the corporate nature of health care in this county. How would I feel if that happened? I would definitely be angry but I would also feel defeated, I suspect. I could go on about the unsafe castle we have created for ourselves (my husband and I) but that just feeds in the paranoia that produces the groups that Trump encourages. I was quite sickened and disturbed by the hate symbols and signs I saw as I researched this subject.

The next day, I added the bells because I listened to the Waldy and Bendy Podcast. They finished with Shane McGowan’s ‘ Fairy Tale of New York”, which ends with the joyous last lines “And the bells are ringing out for Christmas Day”  I would not count myself as religious but I just love that song. As I walked with my dog, I suddenly felt happy and free and couldn’t stop myself from grinning like mad and adding an extra skip to my step. Further on, I wrote: It was quite distressing working on the hate sign/symbols. It was even more so looking up the stuff on the internet. On seeing the NF symbol, I remembered I had drawn some graffiti in my large sketchbook when I was a student, so I included that in the drawing. There are strange parallels to the ’70s.

On the 3rd day, Trump was impeached for the 2nd time. I added squiggly lines to indicate the sound waves/ vibrations to show how we are bombarded each day by the internet, TV and radio. I also added positive words like hug, health, love, hello and words I associate with negativity, Fox News, Trump, Farage, Parler, hate etc.

This is the description of my drawing on the group page:

Yet, again, a difficult assignment, so different from the way I usually work. I am British and American (been here almost 21 years), so I was sort of stuck in the middle. I found it very difficult to relate to this slogan, as it is so American. So first, I looked up the dictionary meaning of the word Freedom and then ring. From that, my drawing grew. Originally I had a yin yang symbol where the handbells are but out on my walk, yesterday I was listening to the Waldy and Bendy podcast. They finished with the Pogues, Fairytale of New York, one of my all-time favourite Christmas songs. It concludes with the following lines, ‘And the bells ring out for Christmas Day.’ it’s such a joyous song and reminded me that bells are rung mostly at times of celebration. I loved the bells ringing out at a wedding.

I think the hate symbols are apparent. I pick up the notion that a circlet of gold plus precious stones was placed on a king or queen to provide protection. So I wanted to protect all the people of the world, the world itself and the right to be who you are regardless of your sexuality. Without that protection, my nephew would be hiding in the shadows. It’s always been there but not out in the open. Both my grand Dad and my Dad loved what were called topsy turvy contests or parties. They loved dressing up in women’s clothing. Today, I added wavy lines to the drawing, sound waves, vibrations, which are all around us. Finally, I drew protest banners for the 4 figures not in the circle to show you have the freedom to protest, just not hate speech. The people in the trash can only want to take away that right. 

The one element I left out in my description was the cuffed hands. Slavery in America is considered something that is in history and only affects African Americans. In truth, slavery is still very much alive worldwide and not just in the poorer countries. It could be argued that having to work on minimum wage and doing 3 or more jobs to provide food for your family without access to affordable health care is a form of slavery.

It was interesting to see the other 14 contributions to this theme. A lot of them focused on the Liberty Bell, Lady Liberty and the capitol riots. There was a lot of anger towards the then President. Others referred to the concept of America being a melting pot striving towards equality for all. One person mentioned the way Covid has taken away our freedom to act as we normally do. That person drew several maze-like stairways, which each led to a freedom of choice. The national parks were another subject and were very apt as the song that this theme is taken from was written by a woman who was travelling across America. As she travelled by train, she marvelled at the beauty of this country.

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