I hope everyone had a good 4th of July. One of the obvious themes of the 4th is freedom. The original freedom was from British rule. We now celebrate freedom in a broader fashion, particularlyby highlighting the sacrifices made for our continued freedom.
On the 4th I remind myself freedom is not the right to do what I want when I want. This year I also reminded myself of three important concepts: the meaning of freedom, the consequences of freedom and my responsibilities for the consequences of my choices. Today’s blog is about those three reminders.
Definition of Freedom. In Webster’s Dictionary freedom has a broad range of meanings. The first one I celebrate on Independence Day is – “the quality or state of being free such as liberation from slavery or restraint or from the power of another: Independence.” For the Fourth of July, I celebrate our independence from British rule.
Another definition of freedom is the ability to make a choice without coercion. In America I have many more choices without coercion than is possible in most other countries. I have more freedom in that sense than most other countries. That is a second reason I celebrate on the 4th of July.
Enes Cantor Freedom, a former professional basketball player, originally from Turkey, made that point this week. In response to recent Supreme Court decisions, Natasha Cloud, a WNBA called America “trash.” Kantor challenged her to travel to a long list of countries and find out what would happen if she so much as called their government “trash.”
Finally, I celebrate for a third way. I give thanksgiving for those many who have sacrificed in the past and those who are sacrificing today so I can continue to have my many free choices.
Our wide range of freedoms is in part in due to our governance and our history of tolerance. In my opinion the freedom of choice is under attack. Whenever the government or other body takes away a choice, they are taking away a freedom.
People on all fronts are reducing freedoms. In Florida parents got a principal fired because the school showed pictures of Michealangelo’s naked statue of David. In my mind, the parents are attacking freedom in the name of parental rights. Banning books so that others might not have the choice to read them is another attack on freedom. Reducing rights of marginalized communities is attacking freedom.
Telling others that they cannot use certain words or have certain mascots because they are offensive is an attack on freedom. Telling people that they cannot use gas stoves or drive gas cars is attacking freedom.
Now I understand attacks on freedom are not all bad. The are good reason to not have some choices. Many of our laws set limits on our choices. We are not free to kill or rape and that is as it should be.
The problem arises whem one side wants to take away choices the other side does not want to happen. All sides have their righteous justifications for reducing freedoms. I am not trying to say what freedoms we should or should not limit. My point is we need to understand and be honest about what we are doing when we limit the freedom of others.
Choices have Consequences. In my opinion we need to do more to teach the concept that choices have consequences. Freedom involves choices, but choices always have consequences. Too many people either are not aware of consequences, fail to think through the possible consequences for their actions, or believe they will not have face the consequences.
Many parents shield their children from negative consequences. Children grow up without facing negative consequences so they are comfortable being disruptive in classes, bullying, not studying and many other ways that are affecting our educational system. They shoot people in games and then may be less hesitant to shoot people in real life.
People want the freedom to drink but fail to foresee the consequences for driving under the influence. People want the freedom to drive but fail to see their bad decisions have consequences in over 40,000 deaths a year.
The list of failures to understand or underestimate consequences could go on and on.
My point is I have freedom of choice but my choices are never free from consequences. I remind myself of that relationship at the same time I celebrate the freedom of those choices.
Personal Responsibility. Closely related to the concept of consequences is the concept of personal responsibility for those consequences. I deeply believe I must accept personal responsibilty for the consequences of my decisions. Not everyone agrees with me.
In my opinion, wealth and power are major factors in the failure of many people to accepy personal responsibility for consequences. One clear example is capital punishment.
My view of capital punishment was shaped by a book I read years ago. “88 Men and Two Women” is a non-fiction book by Clinton Duffy. He was the warden of San Quentin prison. He oversaw the execution of 90 people. His main point was – all but one of them were poor. The one exception was Carl Chessman who got rich in prison from his books about his exploits.
It was an easy read and a convincing book. It made me very hesitant about capital punishment because it is not administered in a just manner. The rich have means to avoid personal responsibility for actions that are not available to the poor.
Another example is when rich parents buy college admissions and their children avoid personal responsibility for their academic standing.
Not all failures to accept responsibility are by the rich and powerful. An example is sex. People from all walks of life want the freedom to have sex. They know the consequences but do not always accept responsibility for their actions. If they did, we would not have as many abortions or single parent families as we do.
Just as with the list for consequences is long, the list for failing to accept responsibility for actions is very long. I wish we did a better job of accepting personal responsibility for our actions.
In summary, on the 4th of July, I celebrate freedom by being clear on the meaning of freedom I am using, by understanding my free choices have consequences and by accepting responsibility for the consequences of my choices. The work starts with me. It is too easy to point fingers at others. I must be very clear on my meaning when I talk of freedom. I must think about the consequences for my choices. I must accept responsibility for the consequences of my choices.