Tuesday, November 29, 2011

I have been thinking lately about our nation’s capacity for freedom. There is an Irish tune the words of which are, in part: “I’m black and I’m pagan, I’m gay and I’m left and I’m free. I’m a non-fundamentalist environmentalist—don’t bother me.”

Our nation is that. It is also white (and other colors), religious, straight, right, fundamentalist and non-environmentalist (whatever that might be called). We are all these things and a lot of others. But not all of us. No one person can be all of these things and no one can help but be some of them. Each of us is a collection of a number of opinions and beliefs and I don’t believe that anyone can be described as possessing all the qualities that are supposed to belong to a person of any one persuasion. We are, in short, a collection of unique individuals that live and work together.

It doesn’t seem that we’re satisfied to leave it that way. There are numerous groups that are trying to change other people in ways that exceed practical considerations of safety. Many of these efforts involve organized and expensive methods. The number of lobbyists in the halls of government, for instance, attests to this fact. We seem to be willing to live with this situation, especially if it seems to provide us with something we think we want.

This constant pressure is liable to provide us with two things we don’t want: more control over our personal lives and more division between people. Either of these can be disastrous for our society. And yet this is the type of society that we are attempting to hold up to the world as the ideal. This is the freedom that we are encouraging other countries to adopt. I don’t think we’re truly aware of what we’re doing. Before we can export freedom we must be willing to give it to ourselves.

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