by Jonathan Franzen
Freedom and Confinement Quotes in Freedom
How we cite our quotes: (Book.Chapter.Paragraph)
"I think for a young person today it ought to have a particular appeal, because it's all about personal choice. Nobody tells a Jew what he has to believe. You get to decide all of that for yourself. You can choose your view own apps and features, so to speak."
"Right, interesting." (3.2.401)
Let's phrase this in a different way: "In our belief system, you get to choose whatever you believe. But in order to get to that point – that is, in order to believe whatever you want, first you have to join our belief system." Wait, what? Why can't I do that without joining any belief system at all? Why do I need to give up my freedom in order to have freedom? Can't I just have total freedom on my own? Lots to chew on.
"I owe a lot to my great-grandfather in Cincinnati, who came over here with nothing. He was given the opportunity in this country, which gave him the freedom to make the most of his abilities. That's why I've chosen to spend my life the way I have – to honor that freedom and try to ensure that the next American century be similarly blessed. Nothing wrong with making money, nothing at all. But there has to be something more in your life than that. You have to choose which side you're on, and fight for it." (3.2.405)
It almost sounds like Jonathan's father is proposing that only the wealthy have the opportunity to be free. Isn't the American Dream supposed to go the other way, though? That being free gives us the opportunity to make money?
"It's all circling around the same problem of personal liberties," Walter said. "People came to this country for either money or freedom. If you don't have money, you cling to your freedoms all the more angrily. Even if smoking kills you, even if you can't afford to feed your kids, even if your kids are getting shot down by maniacs with assault rifles. You may be poor, but the one thing nobody can take away from you is the freedom to fuck up your life whatever way you want to. That's what Bill Clinton figured out – that we can't win elections by running against personal liberties. Especially not against guns, actually." (3.4.184)
This line of thinking sounds a whole lot like then-Senator Barack Obama's infamous remarks regarding the so-called "bitterness" of some working-class voters at an April 2008 fundraiser (source). What do you think? Does it sound about right? Or is it a mischaracterization of American values?