Whose Freedom are we Celebrating?

  • Political Parties


On our beautiful 4th of July weekend of parades, picnics and watermelon, I wondered what kind of freedom we were celebrating. There are two versions of freedom operating in our nation. One is the progressive view and the other is the conservative view. Each side thinks he is right and that the other will destroy our nation. For further reading on this subject, check out Bill Bishop’s THE BIG SORT.

I will refer to George Lakoff’s THE LITTLE BLUE BOOK, for the following insights:

Freedom, to the conservative, is based on a strict family model. The strict father is responsible for providing for himself and his own family, but is not responsible for anyone else. The wife follows the husband’s decisions. A conservative view of democracy is that citizens have the freedom to seek their own interests and need not worry about the interests of others. Beyond your family, you should not have to pay for anyone else. Public resources should be privatized as much as possible since public institutions amount to paying for others.

The conservative model holds that corporations have the right to maximize their profits and the profits of their stockholders. That is their only concern. People should not have to pay taxes to pay for the health care of others or for any other service. Taxes should be paid for a strong military force and for homeland security. All the rest should become private.

The conservative sees children as born without a developed moral sense. The strict father is responsible to teach them right from wrong. By being physically disciplined, children develop moral discipline.

In the strict father family, the father has full authority over his children and has the right and duty to teach them his religious values.

Freedom, to the progressive, is freedom to work together in community to allow each person self-fulfillment. The progressive view is that both parents are nurturing. The central value is empathy for others, with responsibility for others in the family. This empathy leads to a commitment to public institutions that protect and empower all.

 Empathy requires caring about the health and safety of others. The government is charged with bringing affordable health care for all as well as other services. Taxes are gladly paid for community development and services, especially a strong public education system, which is seen as the foundation of a strong community.

In the nurturing parent family, husbands and wives are equal. The main objective is to value the freedom and self-fulfillment of others. Men and women should be equal, politically and socially. Freedom is essential for equality and self-fulfillment. Both require a government that gives adequate protection for all the people.

Children in the progressive household are encouraged to follow their own interests and form their own identity. Freedom includes freedom of religion for all individuals. No one should be able to impose his beliefs on others, not in the family and not in the workplace.

About 30 percent of Americans are firm conservatives and about 30 percent are firm progressives. The forty percent in the middle may be undecided, independent or apathetic. For the past thirty years, communities of like-minded people have grown.  People live with people of the same mindset who think the same and vote the same. They cannot understand people a few miles away. Our country is becoming increasingly polarized, from the ground up, in the local neighborhood. What will it take to diversify our neighborhoods? What will it take for us to agree on the definition of freedom?

By Virginia Kirsch