Today is July 4th and I’m please to welcome a guest commentary. Adam Ehlert reflects on our Freedom and the American Spirit.
We are living in strange and tenuous times. Our country has been through tough periods before…time and time again, even all the way back to its groundbreaking founding, and then the early war that nearly tore it apart. Those two events were nearly unprecedented in world history—a new, independent nation, founded on the principle of equal justice under the law, and all had the opportunity for life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. Unprecedented! And resilient still. Even today…barely.
Not a perfect union—then, or today—but one that is freer, more economically viable, and healthier than any other (and they’re all related, by the way). Our patriots remained unified for our country’s freedom and prosperity through the fracturing events of its history. The questionably-purposed Vietnam era, the necessary-but-difficult Civil Rights struggle of the sixties, the spirit-crushing Great Depression and the Dust Bowl that hit us right in the breadbasket. All the way back to the aforementioned war between the states, an awful, bloody, gut-wrencher that pitted brother against brother. But once that war ended, the healing began. Not overnight, but eventually the Union was restored and families could embrace across state lines.
And through our sometimes-calamitous history, civil discourse remained. And respect for our brother and sister citizens. And respect for the process, for each and every voice, for the firm belief that our Constitution created an amazing framework to allow for our republic’s evolution.
But I am concerned for today. There is no respect for the process. There is no respect for difference of opinion. There is no room, in any room, for thoughtful, reasoned, respectful discourse—especially in that city of southern efficiency and northern charm, where it is all supposed to be centered.
Yours truly is gun-shy in even adjectively describing some of the events above. Let alone sharing an opinion on anything screeched from the television or splashed across tissue-thin front pages.
But I will today, because I believe in this country’s resiliency. I believe in the Constitution, that allows—with significant and thoughtful deliberation, our system to adapt to the times. I believe in her people. This is still The Land of the Free…barely.
I believe in Life. I believe it, and its pursuit of liberty and happiness begins when a heart beats.
I believe in Freedom, nearly as far as the word will carry it. Freedom as imbued specifically in our Bill of Rights—for everyone—and freedom of function. Social issue freedoms—knock yourself out. Actually, let me temper that Libertarian streak a bit—I think society as a whole cannot be trusted (to say nothing of trusting the government), and for medical and social health concerns, I am not comfortable with unrestricted pharmacological freedom. I side with the science here, especially as normalization will more-pronouncedly affect young people, actually physically retarding brain maturation.
I believe in commitment to our country and its rule of law. That protects its citizens. First and foremost—government is here to do what its citizens cannot do for themselves. And hopefully very little beyond that. Social Security—great; safety net services—even better, and doubly-effective when driven locally; Congress, the Executive Branch, and the Judiciary—pretty good checks and balances; interstate infrastructure, travel, commerce, and communications—a great nation!
I believe in Freedom of potential. Education, health, the potential of a vibrant livelihood…the pursuit of happiness! Regardless of race, creed, color or circumstance. Equal potential for all.
But life is not fair—there’s no two ways about that. No matter how gargantuan the monolith becomes, it will not parcel out opportunity and potential in 335 million properly-measured units. But never in history has the playing field been so level, for so many. Not a guarantee of “easy,” but a near-open ticket for Americans to chart a course of desire.
But I am afraid, in most social (and business) scenarios to discuss these cornerstone American ideals.
Media-fueled modern-day McCarthyism can brand anyone an ageist, a classist, a conformist, an institutionalist, (or perhaps more evilly, a red-blooded nativist—who ever heard that loaded term before 2016?), a sexist, or a racist. I wish I could pick up a newspaper, and read news, as reported. The every-story-as-a-societal-wedge has got to stop. It is tearing us apart.
I wish I could fly a flag. I wish I could visit an historical monument without worrying about its implications, I wish I could visit my father-in-law’s memorial at Ft. Leavenworth without risk of being branded as a short-sighted patriot. I wish we could continue to use Mount Rushmore as an educational monument (literally!) to learn our history. This should serve to amplify the voices of the tribes who were so wronged so long ago. Burning down a granite mountain will do nothing to educate our next generations of citizens and leaders from that history.
I wish protests were plentiful…and peaceful. I wish reportage was only that. I wish I was still free to make my own decisions and opinions…and even occasionally have the forum to voice those opinions.
The mistakes of our past will rise just as fast as the rule of law falls. The civil rights of every single American are jeopardized as we undercut our foundational freedoms.
But I have faith. Our indomitable American spirit will overcome; our country will emerge stronger than it was in the untested theory of 244 years ago. With malice toward none and charity for all. God Bless America.
Overland Park, KS
What are your thoughts on the day when we celebrate our great country?