LIBBY EMMONS: Sound of Freedom shows Americans we don't have to be complacent sinners, we can be heroes

The thing that struck me most in watching Sound of Freedom, which I just had the honor of seeing alongside many members of Congress during a screening hosted by House Speaker Kevin McCarthy, was that the heroes of this film are Americans. I realized, while watching the story unfold, that it had been a while since I saw a film, read a book, or saw a play in which Americans are not the bad guys, not the exploiters, or the oppressors, but actually fighting to do good in the world.

The story of the film itself centers around a man who serves as an agent in the Department of Homeland Security. His job is to investigate and round up pedophiles, but he is limited by the scope of DHS to only go after people with American ties. For the lead character, based on and named for real-life former DHS agent Tim Ballard, the plight of trafficked children becomes too much. He finds himself compelled to search for them, specifically a brother and sister that remind him of his own children.

While the bureaucracy stands in his way, he finds fellow Americans, including a man in Columbia who has been through his own dark night of the soul, and together they go off in search of the missing children, finding and rescuing as many as they can with the resources they have.

Americans, and men especially, are so often portrayed as clowns or losers unable to live up to the expectations of a contemporary society that demands not only their compliance but that they step back, hide their light, do not take charge, do not rescue. Contemporary American men are told almost explicitly by culture, media, and a progressive ethos that what they have to offer is not wanted. 

These messages, however, are nowhere in Sound of Freedom, nor should they be. Instead, an American hero, a man who doesn't seek fame or fortune, follows his heart, seeks God's path, and embarks on a mission to find missing children who have been kidnapped for the purposes of exploitation and return them to their families.

The film has brought the problem of child trafficking and human trafficking back into the national conversation. It has been screened not only in theaters but across the country at political conferences, in Congress, and by former president and 2024 GOP front-runner Donald Trump. Those who watch the film come away with an awareness of the problem of human trafficking, which is modern-day slavery, and those politicians who see it are compelled to try to use the legislative tools they have to combat the problem.

The narrative is very clear on who the real heroes are: the children who go through this hell, come out the other side, and live to tell about it. But for an American audience that is so used to seeing ourselves portrayed as fat, complacent, pleasure-seeking meat puppets, it is refreshing to see a hero's journey that reflects grit, determination, and a drive to do good.

The American ethos portrayed in Sound of Freedom, one in which personal desire and want is subsumed to a greater will and mission, is one that Hollywood films and television shows could see more of. The persistent push from Hollywood that tells Americans we are not good enough, we do not measure up to expectations, and that we can never overcome our ancestral sins is one that has reduced us to groveling apologists for our own existence.

Sound of Freedom reminds us that America can do good in the world, that we don't have to look at our sins and declare that there's nothing we can do about them, that we don't have to look upon our criminality–such as being the top consumer globally of child pornography–and accept it. We can break out of these horrid realities, we can fight for what's good, we can be a beacon on the hill. We can be heroes.

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