America. The 4th of July. Hot dogs. Apple pie. Rugged individualism and hardy cowboys.
That’s why our forefathers came to America, isn’t it? Freedom to live life the way they chose? To be free from tyranny? To live the American Dream? To be free?
As I traveled around our country this past month, I talked with a lot of Americans from all walks of life. Let’s just say, it was an education.
What struck me most about my conversations with people was the prevalent idea that we stand alone. Many people seemed to think we are an island unto ourselves – both as a country and as individuals.
“We need to take care of America!” they cry. “Let the rest of the world take care of themselves!”
“I am not my brother’s keeper! I live my life the way I want and you live your life the way you want! Nobody should mandate that I do anything I don’t want to do.”
But I can’t help but think they are missing the point. Whether we like it or not, we’re all in this together. The United States of America is part of a greater world. We are one nation among many. Our actions have grave impact on the rest of the world.
As individuals, our actions/inactions have an impact as well. You want to live your life one way, but your very choice impacts the way I live my life. We are an interconnected world, with many of the connections so invisible we can’t see them with the naked eye. That doesn’t make them any less real.
Bear with me for a minute as we travel back in time to the year 1776. Our country had just gained freedom. We were no longer under the rule of Britain, but were free to do as we pleased. No rules. No regulations. No government. Just a whole lot of free men running around… well, freely.
Fast forward twelve years and people realized that, perhaps, they weren’t so free. This running around freely with no agreed-upon rules wasn’t working. Things weren’t quite so dreamy with no structure, no obligations, no rules. And so, our country elected our first president, George Washington. Government was formed.
I am fairly certain there were some Americans who didn’t agree with George. They didn’t like his views on taxation or commerce or national security. There were those who felt he was taking our country in the wrong direction.
And yet I’m also fairly certain that they recognized that George Washington had been fairly elected by the people, for the people, and of the people. He had been elected for the express purpose of designing rules and regulations that all Americans would abide by. He wasn’t perfect and his ideals were his own – he was human, after all. He saw the world through glasses tinted by his experience and he acted accordingly.
I would be willing to bet that George compromised and the others compromised and, while what came out of that process wasn’t perfect for both sides, it was something they could live with. They understood that no two people will ever see eye-to-eye on everything and we need to compromise. That’s something we should all have learned in kindergarten.
Unfortunately, my conversations with many Americans of late have indicated that there is a sizable percentage of people in my county who don’t understand the whole “give a little, take a little” way of life. They don’t seem to understand that things work better when we’re all on the same page. A rising tide lifts all ships. If I do better, then you do better. What was it the 3 Musketeers said? All for one, one for all?
I’m seeing more and more people with the attitude that they stand alone, yet we’re all in this together, whether we like it or not.
No man is an island,
Entire of itself.
Each is a piece of the continent,
A part of the main.
If we truly believed we should all be completely free to live life the way we choose, then we shouldn’t have any police or jails or government of any kind. Every man for himself. Live the way you want to, cross your fingers and hope for the best. Our founding fathers knew that didn’t work. They knew that didn’t lead to true freedom. They knew there was strength in numbers and in working together. Why have we, as Americans, lost that knowledge?
“I shouldn’t have to pay for your broken bones!” I’m hearing from people opposed to President Obama’s new healthcare plan. “I work hard for my money and I shouldn’t have to give up one red dime so your child can get his broken arm set.”
I have to wonder what George Washington would have thought about that.
We want our taxes a la carte. We want to pick and choose which taxes we’ll pay.
No matter what the president/congress/supreme court rule, SOMEBODY’S right to do SOMETHING will be curtailed. Right? We give a little, we take a little. In the end, it all works out. Maybe some get a little more and others get a little less, but it works out just fine. We’re free when we work together.
The very fact that we live in a society means we have certain obligations within that society. If I choose not to accept and abide by them, then I can choose to move to a remote island somewhere and cut myself off from society and truly live the “every man for himself” idiom. I choose not to do that, therefore I accept that I will have to compromise in a way that makes society as a whole function the best it can.
“That’s all fine and dandy,” some would say. “As long as the rules are rules that I agree with. That are correct.” And my response is, “Correct according to whom? To you? To me?”
Whether we like it or not, if there are to be certain rules and regulations in order to make society function, they MUST be decided upon by somebody. When individual people protest and argue that they are “losing their rights” I don’t get it. I mean – WE (the American people) elected our governmental officials specifically so they can make those laws and set the standards by which we will all live. Then, when they do that, we get upset because we don’t like the decisions they made. We can’t have our cake and eat it too.
I am baffled by the outrage over Obama’s healthcare law. I realize it’s not perfect. Heck – I think Obama realizes it’s not perfect! But it’s a step. It’s a teeny-tiny step toward taking care of ALL Americans, not only those lucky enough to be wealthy. There is still a lot of work to be done. There are thousands, if not millions, of steps left before we get there but you know what they say: The longest journey starts with a single step.
If we, as Americans, are going to be truly free – free to pursue our passions and follow our dreams – then we’ll need to know we can get an appendectomy when we’re doubled over in pain. We need to know that a simple medical procedure won’t break the bank and put us in the poorhouse for the rest of our lives. We need to be able to focus on where we want to go and what we want to do, not on who’s going to pay the hospital bill when we wake up one morning and find our kidneys have shut down.
With great freedom comes great responsibility.
Yes, we have personal responsibility. We have an obligation to ourselves and to society to take care of ourselves. I’m a firm believer in whole grains, organic veggies, homeopathy and essential oils. But all the granola in the world ain’t gonna help when little Johnnie slips on the monkey bars and ends up with a bone sticking out where it shouldn’t.
We have an obligation to be part of society and take care of others. It’s not just some loosy goosy thing we can do if we want. As human beings living within a society, we need to step up to the plate and do our part to take care of all. By supporting others and being a member of our community, we lift us all up. We make us all free.
No man is an island unto himself. We’re in this together. Let’s rise together and take care of one another. Only then can we be truly free.
A bunch of other blogger friends are also writing about freedom today – go check them out!