Hey there! I'm Vivian. Sometimes I write about life and sometimes I write about teaching.

This is a late post. Like really late. Like it’s about July 4th late. But it’s still July and it’s a free country right?

Actually, that’s the question I’m pondering, what does it mean when we say it’s a free country? What is freedom anyway?

This year my family and I spent Independence Day in another country, Baja California, Mexico to be exact. We still got to enjoy fireworks from the balcony of the condo we had rented, but unlike what we usually experience at home in Los Angeles, they ended at a decent hour–no continuous explosions all through the night. (There’s a freedom I’m sure my dog would appreciate having taken away.)

When my husband suggested we drive across the border to spend a week in Baja, I was apprehensive. What was the COVID situation down south? What safety policies were in place? Were we even allowed to drive across the border at all? And what documentation would we need, if any?

It turned out that driving across the border was almost too easy. No one stopped us to check our passports, our COVID status, our vaccination cards. Nothing. Once we got there, one of our first stops was the grocery story. This was not quite as easy. When we pulled into the parking lot, we could see a line outside the door. Were they restricting the number of people allowed in, we wondered. Nope, it turns out each person entering was required to have their temperature taken and use a squirt of hand sanitizer, all monitored by a security guard. Also, masks were required and worn by all. It was quite a contrast to what was happening back at home in the U.S. where the mask mandates had been lifted and businesses seemed to be operating “back to normal”.

We also learned from our tequila tasting tour guide (if you haven’t done this, do it!) that more than 70% of the people in Baja California were partially vaccinated. (It turns out that at that time it was actually 79%.) Just across the border, California was at 62%. We asked our tour guide how they got so many people vaccinated, he said it was a matter of getting the border reopened and bringing back tourism.

Experiencing this contrast between countries right around the time when we celebrate our independence, made me reflect and question some prevailing views on freedom in America. When we talk about the freedom to say whatever we want via the First Amendment does that infringe upon someone else’s freedom to feel psychologically safe? What about the freedom to bear arms? Does that infringe upon someone else’s freedom to feel physically safe? What about freedom to not wear a mask or get vaccinated? Do those actions limit others’ freedom? I know there’s a lot of nuance to answering these questions and slippery slope, and all of that, but I still wonder if we really are better off under our current notions of freedom. I guess it’s good I live in a country where I do have the freedom to ask these questions.

Also, just to be clear our tour guide wasn’t tasting tequila, nor did he taste like tequila!

  1. arjeha says:

    I am reading this while watching the news where they are reporting the return of mask mandates. I understand people not wanting to wear masks or get vaccinated and there is a fine between one person’s rights infringing on another’s. Then I think back years ago when people fought about wearing seat belts. Now it is the law.

  2. Wow, sounds like a very interesting getaway! What was it like crossing the border back to the US? You raise very important questions.

  3. vivian chen says:

    Whew! Getting back into the US was the exact opposite of getting out. We have friends who cross the border often and they gave us a tip to leave really early in the morning. We got to the border about 6am and we were there for almost an hour. If you get there later, we’ve heard it can take up to 8 or more hours! Definitely needed to show passports and answer some questions about our time in Mexico.

  4. jaclynfre says:

    Freedom to people who have always lived is like having 50 brands of salad dressing. You get angry when your specific brand is out at the grocery store or you complain about the ingredients. However, to someone who does not have access to fresh vegetables, salad dressing is a luxury. And 50 brands? My comment is along the lines of “first world problems” which can trigger entitlement. Thanks for sharing your thoughts on your trip to Baja!

  5. Fran Haley says:

    Your reflection with these excellent questions about “freedom,” especially from an American perspective, is something I’ve been contemplating lately as well. Especially when it comes to individual freedoms infringing on others’ freedom and feeling safe. Such a multifaceted word, even within our own country, although I enjoyed this comparison/contrast with Baha California. Lots of layers to ponder!

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