Looking for Freedom along the railway lines

Freedom, by Sebastian Junger

I bought this on a whim, thinking I wanted to catch up with Sebastian Junger. I have not read War, or Tribe. Maybe I should—it might give me some context on where he’s coming from.

Freedom does not disappoint, although I did find it frustrating. The writing is utterly fascinating. Short anecdotes from colonial history, railroad engineering, anthropology, etc, all seem to add up to a meditative discourse—between Junger and himself—on the nature of freedom. This is what I would expect him to be musing on, as he walks mile after mile along remote railroad right-of-ways in Pennsylvania. He eloquently describes an essential paradox of freedom: groups of people have to be organized and powerful to defend themselves against aggression, but powerful and organized will usually oppress their own citizens.

My frustration comes from wishing he would introduce me to his companions, who are presumably military buddies that he met during his reportage in Afghanistan. I feel like I’m watching from a drone, 100 feet in the air, as they trek along. The view is spectacular, but I’m not allowed to come any closer. Do these guys have names? Do they have partners or kids? It seems that talking about feelings and personal relationships are not one of Junger’s strengths.

On the 7th page we learn that the group has a dog with them. Not until half way through do we learn that it is Junger’s own dog. Was that so hard to say? He even hints that he loves the dog, albeit in an oblique way, later on. I think freedom should include being able to say you love your dog.

Leave a Reply