Fanning the Flames: The Freedom Project Blog


Norman Rockwell's Four Freedoms

By Eran Wade
Today we went with some human rights workers to visit a community of displaced people. I braced myself for what I thought might be a shocking scene. I’ve visited Cook County Jail in Chicago. I’ve visited the Dachau Concentration Camp in Germany. I’ve visited the old Caprini-Green housing projects in Chicago before many were torn down in the 1990’s. When I started this trip to Colombia I wasn’t sure what I would find when visiting the group of displaced people.

We traveled quite a ways outside of the main city. We came to a small city where the streets were dirt and the families were just sitting outside (of course it is Saturday). We picked up some people from this small town which reminded me of a small border town in Mexico. From there, we continued down a dirt road which grew worse and worse. We passed through a couple of gates including one that was made primarily of barbed wire. The land and climate reminded me of Wyoming where my grandmother used to live—dry, hot, sunny, and yellow. This was where the displaced people lived and had their “farm.”

The human rights workers who we were with were young lawyers. We talked the whole way there, and my Spanish is starting to improve. We were not able to talk much about the situation with the displaced people although we got along very well. When we arrived, we came to a structure of tree supports and a roof. The roof was lower than I was used to and later would bump my head on it entering. At one point there were 40 displaced persons—women, children and men. More continued to come as the day went on. We were told there are 120 families that live in this community. They told us that it is very difficult and they are simply looking for a future and an opportunity. I noticed chickens and roosters pecking at the ground near my feet. I noticed a bag hanging from the roof which had chicken’s legs sticking out with the rest of the chicken hanging in the bag. I had never seen such a rural looking group. I grew up in Wisconsin, in the town of Racine. Farm life was 10 minutes away, but it never looked this primitive.

They took us on a tour of the farm where we saw them growing watermelon, beans, and corn. However, in the dry, arid climate, the crops looked rough. Nothing like the tall golden corn I’ve seen in Wisconsin. We came to a trickle of water that led to a small basin. This was their well. It was quite small and dubious looking. Back near the shelter, they showed us some good sized turtle-like animals. They were quite spectacular—possibly something I would see in a small zoo. The children picked them up, played with them, and scared their siblings with them.

We talked with the group and someone was recording their names and where they were from. The workers from our group talked with the people and told them what they were here to do. They told them that they could help them to request help from the government. In the U.S. we sometimes perceive those requesting help from the government. These people in Colombia have been displaced because of the armed conflict which seemed nothing to do with an idea of lack of motivation.

The main point I want to share is not that this group of people are poor. It is not that the people have been displaced from the conflict. It’s not that the current living situation for this group seems so hopeless. I want to share the point, which may not be readily known, that the human rights workers are targeted as terrorists. These human rights workers who try to help the displaced people—their lives are on the line for the work they do. Why is this? It’s because their work upsets the current political situation. I don’t quite know all the details and it is very complex, but this is the situation. As someone here told me, if the church were just giving food and clothes to the people, that would be fine. But the workers are not just giving food and clothes. They are helping the people with their rights for speech, for food, and for a decent life.

Before I left Chicago, I was trained at the McCormick Tribune Freedom Museum on giving an artifact tour. One of the artifacts we have is a magazine with a Norman Rockwell picture on four freedoms— freedom from want, freedom of speech, freedom from fear, and freedom of worship. The displaced people are interested in each one of these and are trying to have these freedoms themselves. They themselves are not being intimidated. It is now the lawyers and human rights workers who try to help them with their freedoms that are threatened.

Click here for previous post about Colombia


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Managing Director

McCormick Freedom Project

Shawn is responsible for overseeing and managing the operations associated with the McCormick Freedom Project. Additionally, he serves as the in house content expert and voice of museum through public speaking and original scholarship. Before joining the Freedom Project, he taught American Government, Economics, American History, and Chicago History at Community High School in West Chicago, IL and Sheboygan North High School in Wisconsin.

Shawn is a doctoral candidate within the Political Science Department at the University of Illinois at Chicago where he received his MA in Political Science. He is a 2001 James Madison Fellow from the State of Wisconsin and holds a bachelor's degree in Political Science, History, and Secondary Education from the University of Wisconsin at Madison.

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About Fanning the Flames and the McCormick Freedom Project

Fanning the Flames is a blog of the McCormick Freedom Project, which was started in 2006 by museum managing director Shawn Healy. The blog highlights the news of the day, in hopes of engaging readers in dialogue about freedom issues. Any views or opinions expressed on this blog represent those of the writers alone and do not represent an official opinion of the McCormick Freedom Project.

Founded in 2005, the McCormick Freedom Project is part of the McCormick Foundation. The Freedom Project’s mission is to enable informed and engaged participation in our democracy by demonstrating the relevance of the First Amendment and the role it plays in the ongoing struggle to define and defend freedom. The museum offers programs and resources for teachers, students, and the general public.

First Amendment journalism initiative

The Freedom Project recently launched a new reporting initiative with professional journalists Tim McNulty and Jamie Loo. The goal is to expand and promote the benefits of lifelong civic engagement among citizens of all ages, through original reporting, commentary and news aggregation on First Amendment and freedom issues. Please visit the McCormick Freedom Project's news Web site, The Post-Exchange at

Dave Anderson
Vice President of Civic Programs
McCormick Foundation

Tim McNulty
Senior Journalist
McCormick Freedom Project

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