America Essay Contest: From Behind Bars, I Appreciate My Country So Much More

December 3, 2020 Updated: December 3, 2020

Commentary

One may wonder how an incarcerated felon can find anything to love about the United States of America. A felon’s physical freedom has been forfeited, his rights have been stripped, and the future holds little hope.

I am a convicted felon and I have been incarcerated for six years. Honestly, coming to prison has made me appreciate my country so much more and has given me a great love and passion for the stars and stripes. The two most beautiful and profound things I love about America are freedom and opportunity. I truly believe these two things are available to all Americans. From poor to rich, black to white, prisoner to free man, and human being to human being.

Freedom may be one of the most sought out things by humans. People want freedom of choice, freedom of speech, and freedom of religion. Freedom is found in everyday life and in every decision we make. We have the freedom to wake up when we decide, to eat when we decide, to go outside, where to work, and just about everything we do on a daily basis.

Often it is these little freedoms that are most taken for granted and when taken away or unable to exercise them, they’re the most missed and valued. Take it from me, I occasionally reflect on these simple things that I took for granted and find that I miss them most. No longer can I eat what I want or when I wish. Nor can I go outside when I want, watch what I want, or even shower when I want.

Now as a convicted felon I do completely understand that these are the consequences of misusing my liberty when I was free. I’m not ranting about what should be owed to me; rather I’m painting a picture of living with full liberty to living with virtually none. You see, I didn’t understand just how precious the freedom was to make those little choices until it was taken away (and for good reason). The saying goes, “You don’t know how much you love something until it’s gone.” How awfully true that is and now that freedom, though void of it, is something I have come to cherish, and hopefully one day will be able to honestly and lawfully enjoy.

Since freedom is the foundation on which America was established, opportunity is a by-product of that freedom. The United States of America is known as “The Land of Opportunity.” Why is it that so many people across the world seek to come to America? It’s because America promises an opportunity to become successful, to make something out of nothing, to pursue one’s dreams without hindrance.

In many ways, actually in all ways, freedom and opportunity go hand in hand together and this truth is what makes America so sought-after and beautiful. How many stories do we hear of early immigrants coming to America with nothing more than the clothes on their backs and becoming successful? Or someone growing up in a poverty-stricken community with all odds stacked against them, but then defying those odds to live a prosperous life?

Even in prison, the opportunity to change and to do all that I can to become a better person is ever-present. It is an extraordinary, glorious truth that I can be in one of the darkest places in the country and yet still have the opportunity to make something of my life because of the values America is built on. I have just as much opportunity to be successful as anyone in our great country because opportunity is not taken away from the least of us.

I mentioned that I believed freedom and opportunity are available to all Americans, regardless of background, race, or circumstances. How is freedom available to a prisoner? It’s available because freedom is not only a physical right offered in America but also a certain inalienable right given from God Almighty that is to be experienced inwardly as the state of one’s soul.

How is opportunity available to a prisoner? Opportunity is not only a byproduct of physical freedom but rather is found in a certain inalienable right to the pursuit of happiness, and as long as happiness can be pursued, opportunity will exist always.

But freedom can be misused while opportunity can be wielded as a double-edged sword. For the ones that abuse and fail, freedom can be found in God and the opportunity for redemption calls out. If one finds these, then it will only make the freedom and opportunity that America promises that much sweeter.

The vision that our Founding Fathers had for this country is the reason I love America and think it’s worth defending. And to that end I say, may God bless The United States of America.

Jon Adams is currently incarcerated in North Carolina and hopes to return to Kernersville, North Carolina, upon his release.

This essay was entered in the Epoch Times “Why I Love America” contest.

Views expressed in this article are the opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Epoch Times.

Views expressed in this article are the opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Epoch Times.