I wrote this post prior to the overturn of Roe v. Wade. When that happened, I contemplated scrapping this post and starting from scratch. But even in the midst of this hell in which we now find ourselves, the things in this post need to be said, too. So, for my full rant on Roe v. Wade, check out my post entitled, “Ladies, Welcome to Involuntary Servitude.“
The 4th of July always has me musing about freedom and independence. Naturally, we all value these things. Independence implies that one is not being subjected to outside control, and freedom is the ability to do as one pleases. We all deserve to have both, but when you are living in a civilized society and you blend those two concepts together, you have to add in a third one in order for society to function properly. That third concept is civic responsibility. Without that third ingredient, the recipe becomes a toxic stew, because not everyone is willing to play nice. If you only have freedom and independence, what you get are people doing as they please without any basic outside control, and, unfortunately, that often boils down to chaos and an attitude of “to hell with everyone else.”
As responsible human beings, we must make sure that the things we want to do are not causing others to feel controlled. In other words, my freedom and independence should not roll right over your freedom and independence. It’s okay to be selfish if what you’re doing only impacts yourself. But for the big picture things, we must be more generous.
I never thought that the golden rule thing would be a difficult balancing act for most people. Surely I am not the only person in the world who was taught about civic responsibility. When did we become so selfish that we’re willing to do whatever we want, regardless of how much it hurts others? Have we always been this way? Maybe I just wasn’t allowing myself to see this truth prior to 2016.
It’s all about weighing the pros and cons of every scenario and choosing the less destructive path. For example, you might want free and easy access to semi-automatic weapons, but if that means that innocent children are forced to do active shooter drills and are possibly going to die themselves or witness the death of their schoolmates, is that freedom of yours actually worth it? Statistics bear this out: countries with more gun restrictions have fewer mass shootings. It’s that simple.
Recently I went to see the comedian Hannah Gadsby. The show started extremely late, because the metal detectors that we all had to pass through had caused such a bottleneck that people were still finding their seats a full hour after showtime. Ms. Gadsby was kind enough to come out on stage and keep us entertained with some ad-lib during that time, which was extremely generous of her. But one of the things she pointed out was that she never has this problem when she tours in Australia. Congratulations, America. This is the society we’ve created for ourselves through our egocentricity. But enough about gun control. Let’s move on.
Another controversial topic: Women’s Rights. You might want the freedom to impose your religious beliefs on everyone around you, whether they agree with you or not, but is that freedom worth the deaths of women who are having such a complicated pregnancy that the birth of the child will kill them? Is that freedom worth reducing human beings into unwilling incubators for rapists? How can you feel free while plunging women and children into poverty, violence and dysfunction, only so everyone will march in lockstep with your beliefs?
You might want independence from big government, but is that independence worth it if it means that huge sections of the population won’t have access to healthcare, and the most poverty-stricken people among us will have a life expectancy that is 14 years lower than it is for the rest of us? Do you have the right to steal 14 years of life from a full grown adult who has parents, children, and siblings who will be impacted as well? And if America is so great, why do we have a lower life expectancy than 39 other countries? That’s pathetic. But as per usual, I digress.
You might want the freedom to bust unions, but is that freedom worth it when the average worker in a “Right to Work” state makes 6,109 dollars less a year than a worker in a free bargaining state? Do you care that “Right to Work” states have a 15 percent higher poverty rate, and a 49 percent higher chance of dying on the job?
You might disapprove of all things LGBTQ, and wish to stigmatize these fellow citizens, and block them at every turn from pursuing the very happiness that you hold so dear, but is that cruel desire worth it if it means that LGBTQ youth are more than four times as likely to attempt suicide than their peers?
You may not like the way an election turned out, but does that give you the right to attempt an overthrow of our very democracy? When did that become okay in your mind? Is it because we never call white men terrorists, so they can do anything that their hearts desire, including wanton destruction and threats of murder, and that’s okay? Where is the freedom in that, and for whom? This is not freedom, and it definitely isn’t patriotism. Being a fully functioning adult means you don’t get to throw a violent tantrum when you don’t get your way.
On this of all days, please make an effort to read the famous, albeit densely packed, speech by Frederick Douglass entitled “What To The Slave Is The Fourth of July?”
That speech is the most damning oration against slavery that you will ever hear. And slavery, of course, is the complete deprivation of freedom. The fact that this country condoned slavery for centuries is unconscionable. But read this speech, too, with an eye toward the present erosion of our rights and freedoms. It’s chilling how much of what he says applies to today. For example:
“YOUR HANDS ARE FULL OF BLOOD; cease to do evil, learn to do well; seek judgment; relieve the oppressed; judge for the fatherless; plead for the widow.”
Well said, Mr. Douglass. Well said. How pathetic that we still have to beg for the same type of compassion that we lacked even then. Have we not matured at all as a nation?
At what point did we decide that a complete lack of civic responsibility and a breathtaking wont of consideration for our fellow man was the best path to take to secure our freedom? How can we, as individuals, feel free while kneeling on the necks of others? When did bold faced lies become the most common currency that we use to get what we want? When did we start admitting out loud the belief that as long as we have what we want, everyone else can go straight to hell?
Think about that while enjoying your fireworks (which, by the way, are traumatizing our veterans and our dogs, but at least you’re enjoying yourself, so happy freakin’ 4th.) Think about that while many of us wonder if this country even deserves a party this year, or if we can really be considered citizens when our bodies are no longer our own.
The ultimate form of recycling: Buy my book, read it, and then donate it to your local public library or your neighborhood little free library! http://amzn.to/2mlPVh5