Freedom is a state of being people will sacrifice their lives for, but the idea of being free is difficult to articulate. The meaning is different from person-to-person, and what it allows can vary widely.
“Lately, I’ve been struggling with the concept of freedom,” said Jack Twachtman, the owner of Brew Five Points. “The whole concept is more complicated than you think it is because it’s not black and white.”
Twachtman’s wavering on the issue isn’t the result of being uninformed, he’s far from it. Aside from being a local entrepreneur, he’s a former Navy serviceman, a freelance writer and is involved with the nonpartisan group Jax Young Voters Coalition.
While stationed aboard a ship in Mayport in the 2000s, he was sent to Afghanistan for a year. Twachtman knew he would have four months of service remaining in Jacksonville upon his return before leaving the military. He took that year and learned from afar everything he could about the Bold City. In 2008, he started blogging about the town.
“I was introduced to a lot of cool people who were either doing cool things that inspired me or helped me do something of my own,” Twachtman said.
That was the spark. He quickly realized the city was in need of more doers and felt he could contribute more in Jacksonville than in a town like Austin, where the creative markets were saturated. Entrepreneurship, he believed, was the best way to have control over his own life.
Twachtman believes the idea of following one’s own path isn’t unique, but rather a staple of younger generations.
“It’s important for young people to start staking their claims and making their voices and opinions heard,” he said. A key way to do this is at the voting polls. Thus, thanks to the work of Twachtman and several other like-minded individuals, the Jax Young Voters Coalition was born.
The group doesn’t have an agenda or political affiliation, but exists “literally just to get young people to vote,” Twachtman remarked.
The group utilizes social media and modern tactics, such as art and poster shows, to engage young people and excite them about the voting process. The coalition also serves to educate voters on the stances of candidates and the meaning behind amendments or referendums.
“It’s important for young people to start staking their claims and making their voices and opinions heard.”
The void the group hopes to fill is low turnout for young voters. Year-to-year the number of 18 to 25-year-old voters hovers around 25 percent of the registered population in Jacksonville.
Twachtman believes the problem isn’t necessarily that young voters are apathetic, as commonly touted by older generations, but rather they feel disconnected from most politicians. Additionally, he sees a great deal of hope and optimism in millennials who take issue with the concept of voting for the lesser of two evils — regardless of what office is in question.
He recognizes a youthful embrace this year of Bernie Sanders and, before him, Ron Paul, but millennial voters have yet to find a definitive political leader. A person they feel represents their needs and demands.
However, the political dominance of the baby-boomer generation is considered to be near an end. Therefore, the voice of young Americans is becoming stronger and stronger, but only if we decide to exercise it.
While our vision of the world might be different than our parents or grandparents, we still face a common struggle of identifying the meaning of freedom and how far it should extend.
Individuality, points out Twachtman, is intimately linked to freedom, but this creates a system of winners and losers. The ability for one person to have abundant freedom and benefit, often rides on another person’s inability to do so.
Ultimately, he believes that all people need to be “free to enjoy the same opportunities and basic rights as everyone else.” Therefore, the freedom from oppression is vitally important.
Although the news stories this November will focus on the race for the Presidency, which is obviously important, keep in mind that it isn’t the only way to have a voice heard. Officials are elected at all levels each year, and our voice is vitally important in those races as well. But, the freedom to vote also ensures the freedom not to vote, should one choose.
Only the individual can decide how to voice their beliefs. Regardless of whether it’s at the polls, supporting a certain business or attending select cultural events — each action is a “vote” in it’s own right and a way to make a statement in the community.
Freedom is an intricate concept, but that shouldn’t slow someone down in pursuing what it means to them.
This article was originally featured in the November 2016 Freedom Issue.