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  • Writer's pictureDeric Hollings

Sound of Freedom

Personal anecdote

My military occupational specialty in the United States (U.S.) Marine Corps was military police (MP). One evening when serving aboard Camp Kinser, Okinawa, Japan, I received a call to the Kinser Towers in reference to an unspecified child injury.

Because the Provost Marshal Office (PMO) in which I worked and lived was the central hub for emergency response dispatch, MPs were typically first to be notified of urgent calls. As such, I arrived on scene before emergency medical services (EMS) personnel.

As I pulled up to the Towers, I observed an adult-aged male standing outside and holding a minor-aged female close to his body. She appeared to be around four or five-years-old.

Making contact with both individuals, the area around the child’s eyes was visibly swollen and her eyelids were slightly red in color. She had tears streaming down her cheeks and she appeared to be frightened (i.e., her eyes were wide, forehead wrinkled, mouth curled downward, and her body retracted at my approach).

The man could be heard saying, “Shhhh,” as I walked toward both individuals. When asked about the nature of the call, he forcefully grabbed the girl’s arm, extended it, and revealed a large wound on the under portion of her forearm.

It appeared bright red in color with separation of the skin in the center of the injury which visually measured approximately four or five inches in length and about four inches wide—the entire width of her forearm. The wound was also raised approximately half an inch from the surface of the arm.

I observed the girl wince when the man forced her arm towards me though she didn’t make a sound. I further witnessed her eyes repeatedly transitioning from a gaze in my direction to the man.

The male, said to be the female’s father, explained that he briefly walked away from an ironing board upon which a hot, plugged-in iron rested. He verbalized that it was at that time that his daughter supposedly bumped the ironing board while playing in the room.

Per the man’s narrative, the iron apparently fell from the top of its rested position down onto the child’s forearm and burned her. I was then informed that the man rushed into the room, retrieved his injured daughter, and contacted PMO.

At no time during my interview of the man did I hear the girl wailing in agony, though she visually appeared frightened and in pain. The man continued shushing the girl nonetheless, yet he offered no words of encouragement (e.g., It’ll be ok).

After EMS arrived on scene and assessed the wound, I spoke to the medical care provider from earshot of the father. We both concluded that the injury was inconsistent with the male’s provided explanation.

If a hot iron fell onto an arm in the manner described, a person’s reflex would generally be to yank the arm out of contact with the source of heat. However, the girl’s burn appeared consistent with continuously applied pressure—perhaps deliberately harmful.

As I was a young lance corporal (E-3), I contacted the watch commander who was a sergeant (E-5) and reported that I suspected the occurrence of child abuse. Because the girl’s dad was of high enlisted status, outranking the sergeant and me, our superiors were then contacted.

Word from my “higher-ups” was transmitted to me and I was told to process the call as a mere accidental injury—not even a downgraded charge from child abuse to child endangerment. Following orders like a “good” Marine, I secured the scene with no criminal charges having been pursued.

As a result of that call, I requested that all suspected cases of child abuse, endangerment, or neglect be routed to me when I was on shift. I’d grown up in the abusive homes of my biological mom and dad, and not a single adult ever intervened on my behalf until I was eventually placed in a children’s home during seventh grade.

Some may refer to my behavior at the time as relating to displacement, which per one source reports, “Satisfying an impulse (e.g. aggression) with a substitute object,” and giving the example, “Someone who is frustrated by his or her boss at work may go home and kick the dog.”

If you would’ve asked me about what I thought regarding my behavior at the time, I suppose I would’ve expressed my perceived heroism as some form of atonement for the moral offense of failing to protect myself from my abusers. Maybe.

It’s equally likely that I would’ve described my behavior as that relating to retribution—punishing others as a form of vengeance for wrongful acts perpetrated against minors. Possibly.

While I can’t say with certainty how 20-year-old Deric may or may not have explained his actions, I can say that those who harmed children aboard Camp Kinser from 1997 to 1999, and who came in contact with me while on shift, likely endured an unpleasant experience following the aforementioned call.


For years following my time in Okinawa, I thought in Action-Consequence (A-C) connection terms—that an event occurred and as a response I would experience an emotional and behavioral reaction. For instance, I learned that children were being abused (Action) and I became enraged (Consequence).

Reader, perhaps you think in A-C terms as well and maintain that any morally upstanding human should feel the same way. After all, those who prey upon children are generally considered the least among us as human beings.

Therein is an assumption I recognize as associated with the Belief-Consequence (B-C) connection. Statements often in the form of should, must, and ought-type demands better explain unpleasant outcomes than does the A-C connection.

As an example, I learned that children were being abused (Action), I concluded, “Any morally upstanding human shouldn’t prey upon children” (Belief), and as a result of my understandable though irrational belief about the world, I became enraged (Consequence).

At this point, I anticipate disagreement with the ABC Model, dear reader. You may say, “Deric, it isn’t irrational to say that adults shouldn’t prey on kids. What kind of sick fuck are you for suggesting otherwise?”

Even in this imagined rebuttal, there is a self-disturbing belief. The assumption is that I shouldn’t defend child predators (Belief) and the appearance of doing so is something which you can’t stand.

While I certainly do not intend on advocating child abuse, I do support use of Rational Emotive Behavior Therapy (REBT). Using this psychotherapeutic technique, I help people dispute unproductive mental requirements which result in B-C outcomes.

Truly, I think child abuse is a reprehensible act. I wish I’d never been tortured in the manner I was as a child. Likewise, I would like for that little girl in Kinser never to have been threatened with additional harm prior to my arrival on scene, which I suspect was the case after she was likely abused using an iron.

Nonetheless, those acts did occur—even though I could rigidly demand that they shouldn’t have. When we hold unhelpful beliefs about ourselves (e.g., I failed myself, because I didn’t stop my abuser), how does doing so alter the outcome of what has already occurred?

When we maintain unfavorable beliefs about others (e.g., No child, under any circumstances, should ever be abused), what is the result when our unwavering demands are inevitably violated? Is it favorable to insist upon impossible standards?

When we maintain unproductive beliefs about the world (e.g., No harm should ever befall any living creature), how is our mood or behavior impacted when life doesn’t correspond with our requirements? Indeed, it is the B-C connection and not the A-C connection that results in self-impairment.

No antagonism towards assailants who harmed children with whom I dealt as an MP resulted in a reversal of time. The children were hurt and there was little I could do about it.

As well, no contempt I maintained regarding my Marine Corps leadership for protecting other senior military members resulted in the abolition of injustice. Many instances of abuse were merely disappeared into an abyss of willful amnesia.

This isn’t to suggest that because I was powerless at influencing and controlling people or events, I should’ve just ignored the abuse altogether. Rather, I’m acknowledging truth herein—in particular, the is-ought problem.

I cannot derive an ought from an is. Therefore, demanding that things should, must, or ought to be as I say they ought to be does little more than serve as an unhealthy belief with which I will self-disturb when faced with what actually is.

Child abusers will still abuse children, military commands will continue covering up abuse, and life will carry on being unfair. Instead of becoming enraged by what is, I now help people challenge the oughts which prevent them from leading more productive lives.

If you will, consider that the word “sound” can relate to vibrations that travel through the air or another medium and can be heard when they reach a person’s or animal’s ear. The word can also imply that which is logically valid and has true premises.

As such, the siren on my MP vehicle when responding to an unspecified child injury was loud. The decision for members of my command to cover up suspected abuse, solely because the subject of my investigation maintained high rank, was an example of unsound judgment.

The sound of my siren may have been perceived as that relating to freedom from abuse for the minor-aged female, though the unsound decision of those who indirectly supported abuse potentially kept the child captive to an alleged offender.

O’er the land of the free

Raised under the doctrine of Jehovah’s Witnesses, I wasn’t permitted to pledge allegiance to the flag, sing “The Star-Spangled-Banner,” or join the military. As an adult, I chose my own path when joining the Marine Corps, saluting the flag, standing at attention when the national anthem played, and receiving a tattoo of the U.S. flag.

Though I still choose not to celebrate holidays, I recognize that Independence Day is important to many people. Similarly, I understand that some people not only neglect to show reverence to the observed holiday, they outright mock it.

Black vocalist Jill Scott, purportedly worth $12 million, has recently served as the subject of controversy in this regard. Per one source, “Scott sang the woke attack on the ‘Star-Spangled Banner’ at the annual New Orleans’ Essence Festival on Sunday during Independence Day celebrations.”

According to a separate source, Scott’s apparently modified lyrics included:

Oh say can you see by the blood in the streets / That this place doesn’t smile on you, colored child / Whose blood built this land with sweat and their hands / But we’ll die in this place and your memory erased / Oh say, does this truth hold any weight / This is not the land of the free, but the home of the slaves!

As I understand the B-C connection and comprehend the behavior of shitlords, I’m unbothered by Scott’s performance. After all, I’ve made many burgers using the sacred cows of others and I know trolling when I see it.

Apart from the fact that a black woman of reported wealth was given an international platform with which she could openly declare that the U.S. is “the home of the slaves”—all while perceivably not being forced into labor when singing, I wonder about the sound of freedom one envisions which would right the wrongs of the past.

As far as I can tell, historic events cannot be erased. In REBT, unconditional life-acceptance is used to acknowledge powerlessness over actions of the past and to free ourselves from current suffering in relation to unhealthy beliefs about such instances.

As well, unconditional other-acceptance is practiced as a means of admitting our lack of influence and control over other people, and to attain freedom from misery in this regard. Moreover, unconditional self-acceptance is advocated as a means acknowledging our own fallibility.

I am a flawed individual. You are, too. And life is imperfect. Each of us has limited control of our own selves, little influence over others and the world, and no control over people and life.

Undoubtedly, one can value victimhood and self-disturb using the B-C connection from a platform upon high while belting out the supposed sound of an enslaved people. Whining, moaning, bitching, and complaining are assuredly options one may choose.

Long after the song ends, when all of the controversy is eventually memory-holed and a 51-year-old woman continues to lose relevance, what—other than distant, wasted emotions—will a performance like Scott’s have achieved? Is it truly the sound of freedom she sought?

Sound of Freedom

Recently, I watched Sound of Freedom. Addressing the plot, one source states, “Tim Ballard quits his job as a Special Agent with U.S. Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) to become a vigilante and embarks on a mission to rescue children from cartels and human traffickers in Latin America.”

I didn’t care for some of the acting and I tend not to enjoy films which glorify federal agencies. Barring my minor quibbles, I saw myself in Ballard when reflecting back to my time as an MP.

I understand what it’s like to become disenchanted regarding one’s role in law enforcement through use of rigid beliefs. Not unlike Ballard, I took into my own hands a form of avenger justice when serving aboard Camp Kinser.

“If my command isn’t willing to uphold justice as they should, I must be the person to protect children,” is the belief I likely told myself. I was prepared to let freedom sound from a swift and unforgiving response to injustice, a strategy Ballard eventually adopts in the film.

Currently, the film is under scrutiny for allegedly promotion of conservative tropes. Personally, I don’t view child exploitation or abuse as a leftwing or rightwing issue.

One suspects that in a movie with the lead character who’s a straight white man, representation of a porous border and the issues associated with it, and a theme that depicts non-white characters as being capable of detestable activities, film critics were likely not going to appreciate the flick in the first place.

In response to Sound of Freedom, one critic stated, “All on its own, ‘Sound of Freedom’ is a solemn, drawn-out bore with a not particularly bold narrative stance—caring about the safety of children is roughly the easiest cause for any remotely decent human being.”

The critic’s perspective reflects the unsound believe listed in the second section of this post, “Any morally upstanding human shouldn’t prey upon children.” While I agree with this moral perspective, it isn’t an absolute order that all people believe they should abide.

Taking the critique of the film a bit further, one source states, “Sound of Freedom’ has been accused by some critics of warping the truth about child exploitation and catering to QAnon conspiracy theorists.” Oh no, not the dreaded “some critics” and “conspiracy theorists” angle.

Taking a far less subtle approach, a separate source claims, “The QAnon-tinged thriller about child-trafficking is designed to appeal to the conscience of a conspiracy-addled boomer.” It’s apparent that some critics do not appreciate gallantry associated with recuing children from abusive settings.

Fact-checking Sound of Freedom

Just as I unconditionally accept Jill Scott’s beliefs with which I disagree, I tolerate and accept the assumptions of those with differing opinions than mine. Aside from endurable assumptions, there was a claim in Sound of Freedom upon which I now want to focus:

Human trafficking is a 150 billion dollar-a-year business. The United States is one of the top destinations for human trafficking and is among the largest consumers of child sex. There are more humans trapped in slavery today than any other time in history – including when slavery was legal. Millions of these slaves are children.

Aside from petty critiques, is the final message of Sound of Freedom accurate? Herein, I will briefly fact-check the film’s claims.

Claim 1: Human trafficking is a 150 billion dollar-a-year business.

Human trafficking is the crime of exploiting another person for compelled labor or commercial sex acts, typically through force, fraud, and coercion, or inducing a minor under 18 into commercial sex. Human traffickers are in it for the money, with estimated annual global profits of $150 billion.

To put this statistic into perspective, consider the 2022 reported annual revenue for:

-National Football League, $18 billion

-Major League Baseball, $10.8 billion

-National Basketball Association, $10 billion

-National Hockey League, $6.1 billion

That’s roughly $45 billion in total. Subtracting this number from the reported $150 billion in profits from human trafficking and 105 billion dollars remain. So far, the U.S. has purportedly spent $77 billion to fund a proxy war in Ukraine.

Subtract that number from the leftover $105 billion and $28 billion remains. Whether funds associated with bread and circuses, or an illegal and unconstitutional war in Ukraine that is perpetuated by the U.S., the combined funds associated with sport and war aren’t close to what is spent on human trafficking concerning an annual basis.

Claim 2: The United States is one of the top destinations for human trafficking and is among the largest consumers of child sex.

Per a separate source, “The United States is widely regarded as a destination country for human trafficking.” Having referenced sports for claim 1, another source states:

According to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, 10,000 prostitutes were brought to Miami for the 2010 Super Bowl. Similar reports have been made about the 2014 FIFA World Cup. The gathering of large groups of people, as well as tourists’ willingness to spend money, is what makes these large events so lucrative for traffickers.

Regarding data from the National Human Trafficking Hotline, sex-related cases were reported far more than labor incidents in the U.S. This isn’t a mere pastime, it’s an industry.

As a part of my continuing education unit plan, I recently completed a course entitled 97470: Human Trafficking and Exploitation: The Texas Requirement, in which I learned that in the U.S., the children most vulnerable to domestic minor sex trafficking are those who are homeless, abused, runaways, and/or in child protective services, per Kotrla.

If there is an abundance of supply to meet the reported demand, it stands to reason that the U.S. could feasibly serve as a top destination for child sex trafficking. Even if the U.S. was lower on the scale, one wonders what quantity of child exploitation would warrant concern from critics.

Claim 3: There are more humans trapped in slavery today than any other time in history – including when slavery was legal.

According to one source, “One in 200 people is a slave,” and it claims that “more people are enslaved today than at any other time in history,” estimating approximately 40.3 million people exist in bondage. That’s slight over the total population of California, the most populated U.S. state.

For context, the United Nations reports that for “over 400 years, more than 15 million men, women and children were the victims of the tragic transatlantic slave trade.” Additionally, one source claims, “There is no region of the world that is immune to modern slavery.”

Claim 4: Millions of these slaves are children.

Per one source:

1 in 4 of all victims of trafficking are children involved in forced labor. As many as 1.2 million children are being trafficked every year. The children who are trafficked often work as slaves on farms, mines and at industrial factories. Worldwide, up to 10 million children are trapped in modern forms of child slavery.

One suspects that vocational forms of servitude may be easily justified by some readers. For such people, one source adds that “there are 4.8 million people in forced sexual exploitation worldwide, approximately 21% of which, or nearly 1 million, are children under the age of 18.”

Still, it would be negligent not to offer that some people dispute the severity of this issue. As an example, one source claims:

Of course, child sex trafficking does happen, and it is horrible. The crime is a serious concern of human-rights organizations and of governments all over the world. Statistically, however, it is hard to get a handle on: The data are often misleading, when they exist at all.

Suppose statistical data are grossly overstated and there are only a handful of cases in which minor-aged people are actually trafficked for sexual purposes. Would Sound of Freedom thus be rendered unworthy of attention, because only some children are involuntarily and sexually exploited?

From a cursory glance, it would appear as though claims one through four contained within Sound of Freedom may be accurate. Even if the data are inflated, the significance of involuntary servitude remains a relevant topic of concern.

Ultimately, one wonders why people like Jill Scott are willing to grumble about and protest slavery of the past while seemingly ignoring what is arguably a far greater issue in modernity. Then again, who knows how I would spend my time if I had $12 million and little else to do than whine in an attempt to grasp for relevancy?


In likelihood, as an MP, I projected onto others the unresolved issues I carried forward from childhood. Understanding REBT as I currently do, I no longer allow an unproductive B-C connection to influence my emotions and behavior in this regard.

Likewise, when celebrities and critics voice criticism of the U.S. or films such as Sound of Freedom, and I disagree with their assessments, I don’t become angry and act out in accordance with a B-C connection. To the contrary, I find something constructive to do like writing a blogpost few individuals will likely read.

As far as I can tell, the claims listed in Sound of Freedom are accurate. Though I practice unconditional acceptance and can tolerate matters I think are repugnant, I can understand how people would want to spread awareness of child sex trafficking through a film like Sound of Freedom.

Ultimately, I appreciate how the flick depicted that boys can be victims of this crime and women are also responsible for the perpetuation of human trafficking. As well, it was a pleasant reminder to see myself in Tim Ballard’s character and know how far I’ve come through my practice of REBT.

How about you, dear reader? If you watched the film, what was your takeaway lesson? If you used a B-C connection to disturb yourself, and after reading this post you understand that there is a way to stop upsetting yourself, I’ll be glad to share more about REBT with you.

If you’re looking for a provider who works to help you understand how thinking impacts physical, mental, emotional, and behavioral elements of your life, I invite you to reach out today by using the contact widget on my website.

As a psychotherapist, I’m pleased to help people with an assortment of issues ranging from anger (hostility, rage, and aggression) to relational issues, adjustment matters, trauma experience, justice involvement, attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder, anxiety and depression, and other mood or personality-related matters.

At Hollings Therapy, LLC, serving all of Texas, I aim to treat clients with dignity and respect while offering a multi-lensed approach to the practice of psychotherapy and life coaching. My mission includes: Prioritizing the cognitive and emotive needs of clients, an overall reduction in client suffering, and supporting sustainable growth for the clients I serve. Rather than simply helping you to feel better, I want to help you get better!

Deric Hollings, LPC, LCSW


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