Our nation celebrates a birthday tomorrow, July 4. Since 1776 when Congress made its decree for freedom and formally adopted the Declaration of Independence on July 4, 1776, the bell for freedom has rung in our country. While we talk and sing about the Land of the Free and the Home of the Brave, some believe that freedom is not afforded to all citizens to the same degree. Our country is in a struggle about this. Nevertheless, freedom is our birthright. But freedom must be tied to responsibility, or we can have anarchy. This year as we celebrate, perhaps we need to think not just about freedom, but also about responsibility. For we can only remain free if we act responsibly. When we fail to act responsibly individually, our leaders must step up and lead the way for us. Not to control us, but to lead us.
While many people prefer freedom over being controlled, not all do. Some people prefer to be told what to do and find that easier than being responsible for themselves. These people are glad to have a dictator who controls them, whether the dictator is in government, or is a spouse. Those who are controlled do not bear the burden of responsibility. There is always someone else to blame when things go wrong, or do not turn out the way they would prefer. The blame game is alive and well in our country at this time, unfortunately. Many people are polarized, blaming “the other side” for what they find wrong in our society. Instead of being a part of the solution to make things better, blaming others is the route too often taken. Our current pandemic did not create this situation, but it has magnified it. The disagreements over to mask or not to mask is a good example, and whether we believe that science or politics is driving the decisions.
One of the reasons for our current situation, our polarization, is our failure to manage our differences in a healthy and respectful way. While there are many examples of this, the one that is creating the most conflict is our racial divide. One only has to see “All Lives Matter” (which of course, they do) right after “Black Lives Matter,” (which is, of course, also true.) Both are true statements, yet the truth of the statements gets lost in the emotion of the perceived differences. Those who agree more with one of the two statements and find the other statement in conflict with the one to which they agree, get locked into their position, in essence, polarized. That is the situation with which we are faced in our society. You may be thinking, “What does this have to do with responsibility and freedom?” Actually, quite a lot.
Freedom requires responsibility. The responsibility to be free from our biases, and to act responsibly. When we act responsibly, we refuse to label others, and we refuse to carry our past biases into our present and future. We especially refuse to allow the biases of our network, be those our family or our ethnic group, to control our opinions of others. We accept the freedom and the responsibility to think for ourselves, to avoid mob behavior, and to search for common ground with others. This is true regardless of what we believe. If we fail to do so, we will not be free.
Happy 4th of July. Let responsibility for freedom ring.