Guest Editorial: John Maurer

John Maurer
Clearly, the meaning of freedom has evolved, and continues to evolve. We live in a time when the meaning of freedom, or democratic freedom, must be considered not only in national terms, but in global terms as well. Freedom must be considered as more than simply the basic state of not being imprisoned. Understanding freedom requires us to elevate the concept beyond autonomy to include the right to a voice and the right for that voice to be heard. We are beginning to recognize that freedom isn’t something endowed entirely upon everyone equally, even in democratic societies. It is more complex than just a law or a system of government. Laws can be written, but that doesn’t mean they are always upheld, let alone enforced without bias. And in places where everyone has the right to vote, not everyone has the same access to the polls. At a time when so much divides us, even our interpretations of the democratic system pull us apart. Some claim that anarchy is the only true freedom. Others would say a direct democracy, such as that in ancient Athens, is the truest form of democracy and freedom. While others prefer the American model of a republic in which elected officials vote on behalf of their constituents.

While India celebrates its 75th birthday and year of independence this very month, Ukraine is simultaneously fighting to maintain its democratic freedom in the Russo-Ukrainian War. We are at a global crossroads where we can see both the beauty of a blooming democracy and the resilience of another that is under attack and threatened with a loss of freedom. Where India achieved its freedom through peaceful protests directed at the British Empire, Ukraine has been forced to defend its freedom by repelling a Russian invasion. We are seeing the different circumstances where freedoms are withheld or threatened, as well as seeing the different ways that different groups of people respond, or are forced to respond, to these threats. We’ve come to see that freedom is delicate, fragile, and precarious; that the places where democratic freedom exists are places where people have had to fight for it, in one way or another, in more and more instances. 

More than all of this, freedom extends well beyond just the political construct. It is a multi-faceted word that means different things to almost everyone. Some search for psychological freedom, to be free of worry or anxiety or other thoughts that restrain them. Others search for financial freedom to rescue them from the monotony of their daily lives, from their jobs, household chores, and worry for the future. Everyone has things in their life that they feel are holding them back, bad habits or being too busy or a lack of resources, financial or other; but everyone is searching for greater freedom within society, within themselves, and within our governments. Though our interpretations may differ, we all share in the desire for autonomy and freedom.

In this issue, the editors of Setu and I wanted to bring together poetry, prose, and visual art that spoke to all these facets of freedom, and perhaps others as well. I’ve curated a collection of writing and art from a diverse set of artists and writers; old and young, experienced and amateur, from a variety of countries, and with a variety of perspectives.  Though all these artists and writers are from different backgrounds and have had very different life experiences, you will likely find that their ideas of freedom are far more similar than they are different. Though we may have different ideas of how to get there, we all are headed for the same destination, to a place of greater freedom for ourselves and others.

It has been a privilege and an honor to have had so many writers and artists share their work with me, as well as having the opportunity to guest edit this issue on a topic that is near and dear to my heart. 

“Freedom, in any case, is only possible by constantly struggling for it.”—Albert Einstein

John Maurer
Guest Editor, SETU, August 2022, Special Edition on Freedom

Bio: John Maurer is a 27-year-old writer from Pittsburgh that writes fiction, poetry, and everything in-between, but their work always strives to portray that what is true is beautiful. When not writing, they enjoy spending their time playing basketball, making music, and taking long contemplative walks through the woods. They have been previously published in Setu Bilingual, The Bitchin’ Kitsch, Thought Catalog, and more than a hundred others. @JohnPMaurer (

Special Edition: Freedom
Featured Authors

1. Jass Aujla
2. Pallavi Baruah
3. Don Carpenter
4. Alice Chains
5. PS Conway
6. Kellasandra Ferrara
7. David Garcia
8. Athena Kaiman
9. Sasha Lauren
10. Frances MacGregor
11. George Miller
12. Maria Perez
13. Giselle Phillips
14. Steven Ross
15. Crow Rudd
16. J.A. Savage
17. Angela Thompson
18. Samra WaHeed
19. Antonia Wang
20. Cassondra Windwalker

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