How The Threat of Losing My Freedom Pushed Me to Find My Voice

Guest Post by Tara Munjekovich

Growing up, I never gave much thought to the First Amendment, other than having to memorize and recite it in a high school history class. Like many kids in middle-class America in the 1980’s and 90’s, my parents were hard-working people with fairly conservative values who believed in the “American Dream.” I lived a life of relative privilege and took my freedoms entirely for granted. My ignorance of the importance of freedom carried on into my college years and beyond. Ironically, I attended one of the most progressive and political universities in California at the time, with an established legacy as the home of the Free Speech Movement in the 1960s. Large-scale protests frequently occurred while I was a student there. None of this, however, was of any interest to me. I didn’t care about politics – liberal, conservative, or other. The only thing I was concerned with was completing my classes and getting my degree so that I could join the working world.

After graduating from college, I spent several years in corporate America, working for a world-famous studio entertainment company. I still had no political interests, and I was more focused on catalog shopping during my lunch breaks than caring about anything going on in the world. Even though I was in my mid-20s and completely supporting myself, I was living in a bubble of movie studio superficiality and obliviousness to anything beyond my own personal struggles and dramas. I truly didn’t understand how critical the concept of free speech was until I made the transition from a private sector job to civil service in my early 30s. The start of my public service career signaled the end of my individual identity, as I joined a world of paramilitary conformity with strict rules and regulations.

My first government job was with a municipal fire department in Southern California. It was the early 2000s, and social media was still in its infancy. I had a pager for important callouts and notifications, and it was the era of the “modern” flip phone, where you had to spend several minutes converting the numbers into letters to send a text. Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and Snapchat didn’t exist. The only social media platform I can even recall at that time was Myspace, and I wasn’t on it. Nobody cared about pictures of what you ate for dinner or if you “checked in” at Starbucks for coffee. Even though conforming to certain social standards and not expressing any public political opinions was an expectation of the job, unless you did something truly egregious to warrant public attention, you could still have opinions in your personal life and live relatively free from public scrutiny.

A few years into my fire service career, I decided to switch gears and pursue a career in law enforcement. I was fully aware of the concepts of objectivity and impartiality being the cornerstones of police work, and I still strongly believe in the importance of both. I ultimately accepted the responsibility of not expressing personal political opinions on the job. During my 14-year law enforcement career, social media expanded like wildfire, and it became the primary way for basically anyone to share their lives with the world. I’m not going to go on a tangent about how I believe social media has contributed to the downfall of society because that is an entirely different topic. Still, it directly impacted promoting censorship and false narratives related to law enforcement.

One of the downsides to people posting every aspect of their lives for the world to see on the internet is that social media has also become a tool for law enforcement departments to monitor and regulate officers’ personal lives. I had Facebook for a couple of years, which I used to keep in touch with distant friends and family, and I posted sporadic pictures of horses and my dogs on my Instagram account, but overall, my use of social media was fairly infrequent. I was more interested in actually living my life than posting about it online, so I wasn’t worried about department audits of my social media accounts.

As I’ve mentioned in a previous article, my career trajectory changed significantly after the start of Covid and the subsequent barrage of anti-cop sentiment that arose in the wake of the media coverage of the George Floyd incident. I became increasingly angry with all of the false narratives I saw on social media and the constant condemnation and criticism of law enforcement in general. I began to really struggle with the loss of my personal identity and my frustrations with not being able to express an opinion in my personal life. Yes, I signed up for the job, just like people who join the military sign up for conformity and following orders. However, unless you have been a law enforcement officer or have a military background, I don’t think most people in the private sector can fully understand the irony of being in a job where you risk your life daily to protect the freedom of others, while at the same time essentially giving up those freedoms for yourself.

Standing on a skirmish line while getting rocks and urine-filled bottles thrown at me by an angry mob crowd and not being able to do anything about it until given orders from Command Staff… part of the job. Getting shot at while holding a corner at a SWAT callout and having to keep my composure… part of the job. Getting spit on, kicked, punched, and fighting for my life with a guy who has a 100-pound advantage on me and is trying to take my gun while I wait for backup to arrive… part of the job. Being told constantly that I was a pig, a racist, a fascist, and every possible derogatory name you can think of, while not being able to say anything to defend myself… part of the job. Yes, these are the things I “signed up for” when I became a cop, and I embraced my career with enthusiasm and dedication because I felt it was an honor and a privilege to be in a position to have a positive influence on other peoples’ lives.

What I did not sign up for was complete censoring of my personal life and being prohibited from actually doing my job. I did not sign up for being told I couldn’t express a personal opinion outside of work or post anything “inflammatory” on social media. I did not sign up for being told my spouse couldn’t post anything political on their social media accounts because it would result in disciplinary action for me. I did not sign up for being told I shouldn’t express my support of law enforcement by posting a Blue Line Flag on my Instagram account when the world was posting black squares in support of BLM. I did not sign up to be threatened and forced to get an experimental “vaccine” or else I would lose my job. I did not sign up for enforcing unconstitutional mask mandates and telling struggling businesses that they would have to shut their doors if they didn’t comply. I did not sign up to stand by and do nothing while watching a police facility and local businesses get looted, burned, and destroyed by “peaceful protestors.” I did not sign up for illogical police reform and legislation designed to strip me of my rights and protections while doing my job. No, this shit I did not sign up for.

Former U.S. President Dwight D. Eisenhower is quoted as having said, “If you want total security, go to prison. There you’re fed, clothed, given medical care, etc. The only thing lacking… is freedom.” Am I comparing being a police officer to being in prison? In a way, yes. A government job provides financial security and outstanding medical care… in exchange for freedom of speech and freedom of expression.

I have worked in two states where the government was hell-bent on vilifying law enforcement and restricting our personal freedoms, while allowing the criminal population to run rampant and engage in free-for-all crime. I have seen several of my friends get disciplined or fired for standing up for themselves, doing the right thing, legally executing their job duties, or expressing their personal opinions on social media. Rather than suppressing my frustration and continuing to “fall in line” and keep my nose to the grindstone, these incidents only fueled a fire within me to become even more passionate about the importance of freedom and standing up for the things I believe in. I ultimately decided to choose freedom and quality of life over financial security and a pension.

The United States is currently in a terrifying downward spiral into a state of social and economic decline that we haven’t seen in our lifetime. Our federal government has become increasingly more overreaching in censoring anyone with an opposing political opinion. Instead of a place for freedom of expression, social media has become the ultimate tool of political control. I keep hearing that the “silent majority” of Americans are fed up with the current state of the economy, and our clown show façade of a government. I used to be part of that silent majority, listening to podcasts that shared my point of view, but not having the balls to speak my own mind. I refuse to keep my mouth shut and just go with the program anymore. I refuse to stand by idly and hope someone else will speak up for me and initiate change. This is the first time in almost twenty years that I have been “free” to speak my mind without repercussions of either getting disciplined or losing my job. And damn, does it feel good.

When I became a cop, my goal was to help people. Yes, it sounds cliché, but it’s entirely true. My overall goal hasn’t changed. I still believe my life purpose is to use my skills, abilities, and experience to help others. While I’m in the process of figuring out exactly how to do that on a grander scale, I know my mission in life involves inspiring others be successful in prioritizing the value of living a more intentional, deliberate, and simple life.

I used to care about what people thought of me, and I always wanted to make a good impression on everyone. Those days are behind me. I no longer care if anyone is disappointed in me for “quitting” my career. I no longer care about pleasing people. I no longer care who disagrees with me. I no longer care if I offend people with my blunt honesty and outspoken political opinions. I no longer care that I have family members who decided to cut ties with me because I don’t support forced vaccination and mask mandates.

What I care about is being authentic, having personal integrity, and speaking up for myself and other like-minded people who are too scared to have a voice or stand up for themselves. What I care about is living a life of intention, striving every day to be a positive role model in the fight for protecting freedom, autonomy, liberty, and patriotism. What I care about is playing a part, no matter how small, in making America the greatest free country in the world again and not laying down like a defeated dog, just accepting social media censorship and extreme government overreach. We are fighting right now to maintain freedom in this country, and it’s critical for people to recognize that this shit is real. If the “silent majority” doesn’t start speaking up and taking action to effect change, we are headed for complete disaster and a loss of the hard-won freedom that America was founded upon.

Freedom is a HUGE component of living “The Simple Life.” Freedom to make your own choices. Freedom to speak your mind and express your opinions. Freedom to stand up for yourself and others. Freedom to post opposing opinions and ideas on social media. Freedom to legitimately vote on how your hard-earned money is spent by the government instead of watching inflation go through the roof, and the dollar turn to shit because the powers that be are making money out of thin air to give to everyone except the American people. Freedom to buy a piece of land at a reasonable price and afford to live your off-grid dream life. The bottom line is that without standing up for freedom, none of these options will be possible in a few years. It’s that “simple.”

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