“Give Me Liberty” by Naomi Wolf

There are a lot of books that tell us what’s wrong with America. But most of them don’t tell us how we can make things right. “Give Me Liberty: A Handbook for American Revolutionaries” (2008) by Naomi Wolf does both – with a conversational, easy-to-read style. Wolf reveals the frustrations and freedoms of our political system, and highlights seven principles of American liberty.

Seven core American values:

1. We are required to speak freely.
2. We have a duty to rebel continually against injustice and oppression.
3. Ordinary people are supposed to run things.
4. Americans cherish the Rule of Law.
5. America establishes no God.
6. Americans deliberate with their neighbors; we disagree without violence.
7. Liberty is universal; America cannot maintain an oppressive empire.

“Give Me Liberty” reminds us that we have a right and a duty to rebel against an oppressive government. It explains that the “pursuit of happiness” in the “Declaration of Independence” is not about pursuing pleasure, but about citizenship and enfranchisement. It asserts that patriotism is not about unquestioning obedience, but about challenging government policies and self-correction.

Most importantly, “Give Me Liberty” gives us practical advice about how we can become citizen leaders and change public policy.

One of Wolf’s suggestions is to exercise our free speech and start deliberating with our neighbors again, discussing the community and political issues that are important to us. Wolf cautions, “Remember that deliberation is different from advocacy: you’re inviting people to grapple with an issue, not to try to persuade them to adopt one view” (page 280).

Deliberate with your neighbors

1. Recruit your family, friends, and neighbors.
2. Be clear about the agenda and goals, whether it is an open discussion or there are specific issues you want to tackle.
3. If you want to discuss specific issues, offer basic information before the meeting.
4. Have written guidelines about listening, not interrupting, and common courtesy.
5. Choose a fair and neutral “facilitator” who will watch the time, participation, and agenda.
6. Set up a flip-chart and choose a note-taker who will write down ideas and suggestions.
7. If you have more than 10 people, divide up into smaller groups so that everyone has a chance to speak.
8. Summarize the ideas and action items, and ask people how you can make the next meeting better.

Naomi Wolf (http://www.naomiwolf.org/) is an author, speaker, and co-founder of the Woodhull Institute for Ethical Leadership and the American Freedom Campaign.

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