CELEBRATE 240 YEARS OF AMERICAN “FREEDOM!” “Liberty and Justice…!”

This July 4th, join us, your family, friends and neighbors, in celebrating our country’s 240th year of “Freedom!”

Last Memorial Day, I saw a sign outside a St. Vincent de Paul resale shop. It said, “Remember those who gave their lives for our Freedom.” That started me thinking.

I grew up in a Marine Corps family. My brother and I were raised to respect the values our country was founded upon – Fairness, Respect and Community Good. We believed in “Freedom” and “Liberty and Justice for all….” but I’d never really considered the meaning of the words. We simply knew they represented equality, dignity and American principles.

Lately it seems the meaning of these words is being distorted.

Some would like us to believe that “Freedom” is a personal license to do whatever one wants, whenever they wish. They equate living in a community to someone who lives in isolation, with no one for miles around to tell them what they can or cannot do. But,

people who isolate themselves from others are not “free,” they’re simply alone.

“Freedom” only has meaning when viewed in terms of family, friends, neighbors and other members of our community.

“Freedom” is a social concept, unique to our democracy! Like the Christian decree, that tells us to “…love thy neighbor, as ourselves,” it’s a constant challenge! It’s not easy to maintain, but it is easy to ignore!

Ironically, those who attempt to protect their own “freedom” are often the strongest advocates of eliminating the “freedom” of others.

“Freedom” is not selfish. It requires sharing with those around you. You can’t be “free” if “Freedom” only applies to you.

“…with liberty and justice for all!”

Our “Pledge of Allegiance” ends with “…liberty and justice for all.” These words form the cornerstone of our American Democracy. We pledge to provide “liberty and justice” for everyone, not just you and me, not some of us, but all of us!

When we find ourselves supporting laws or political candidates applying the concept of “Freedom” selectively, we should ask ourselves, are we trying to impose our personal preferences and beliefs on others in our community, and if so why?

We must learn to address “hot button issues” within the context of “Freedom.” Fear drives people in ways that logic and facts can’t begin to match. Fear triggers a predictable response in the human brain. When people are afraid, they stop thinking and act out, often violently, couching their actions in perverted definitions of “Freedom!” People who are afraid are easily manipulated by those who might exchange our freedom for their personal interests.

To make it easier to influence others, “Freedom” is often redefined to mean someone should be allowed to do whatever they please, without interference from “some other entity,” typically described in vague terms, the “other entity” such as “The Gov’ment” or “those people!”

They blame the “other entity” to induce fear in individuals and groups who are passionate about one or more issues in our society. We’re all aware of these issues: job loss, guns, religion, immigrants, LBGT Americans, ethnic and racial minorities, etc.

The “other entity” becomes anyone who does not agree with their personal beliefs or doesn’t look, talk, or live like they do. When their fear reaches a certain level, they strike out to protect their “Freedom,” frequently destroying someone else’s “Freedom!”

None of this is rocket science. It’s common to be cautious of things and others who appear different. But when our caution threatens the “Freedom” of others, no one’s “free!”

“Freedom” requires tolerance and respect.

Until we learn to accept differences,

we’ll never be “Free!

This 4th of July, celebrate our “freedom” with family, friends and neighbors. Remember those who struggled to give us “freedom” and lend your support those who continue to protect our American Freedom, our citizens and our communities!

Photos by Tom Ivey