On Freedom

There's a reason everyone hates politics but the politicians.  It grimy, slimy, uncomfortable, and often unethical.  Voting usually feels more like holding our nose and breath as long as we can until we figure out which stench we're most capable of stomaching for the next two to six years. And then there's the issue of admitting who you voted for once your done, which somehow opens you up to every arrow of hatred and condescension aimed at the political candidate themselves.  Guilty by association, we all seem to point and cry at one another.  You voted for Romney, you must hate poor people!   You voted for Obama, you must be a communist!

There's a myth out there, perpetuated (I believe) by culture warriors, pundits, zealots and politicians on both sides of the isle, that if you identify with a party, you must subscribe to X list of beliefs, and you must do it for X reason.   As if we can understand the belief and motives of strangers simply by their political choices.   And the sad thing is, we play in to it.  We allow ourselves to be manipulated by people who benefit from the divisiveness, people who would have us believe that because I've got a red sign in my yard, and you've got a blue sign in yours, we have nothing in common.  And we definitely can't be good neighbors or friends.

I think what we forget is the thing that we all do share: the desire to be free.  If you're like me, I believe that desire is innate, God given even.  I believe the desire to make our own choices and pursue happiness in our own way motivates every individual on this planet.  But that desire manifests itself so differently in each of us, sometimes in ways we can't understand or accept.  Some value laws that promote freedom of choice, others want freedom from consequences.  I think we all would like to be free from fear, but to some that means ridding the world of guns, to others that means owning one, just in case.  Our life experiences, our personalities, our friends and family, our beliefs about God and religion, everything in our lives makes our desire for and interpretation of freedom 100% unique. 

I'm not saying there is no right or wrong.  I believe there is.  I am a member of a religion.  I am a member of a political party.  I have opinions, strong ones.  I share them when asked.  I believe my opinions lead to happiness and prosperity and freedom.   You might think I'm wrong.  I will most likely at some point, think you are wrong too.  But what I won't do is presume to know your motivations.  And I won't call you a bigot, or a communist, or ignoramus, or any other label designed to shame you into silence.  

When I was a kid, my mom told me that when you get to know someone, you usually like them, and even if you don't, you will understand why they do what they do.  Over the years, I've gotten to know a lot of people.  I've lived in a third world country.  I worked for the California department of corrections.  I've been to almost every state in the US and lived in five of them.  I've met  a lot of people, people whose beliefs and ideals and lifestyles are vastly different than my own, but in each of those people I've seen that desire for freedom, and while I may not agree with the way they pursue that freedom, it is their pursuit, not mine.  And listening to them, truly listening to them has enriched and informed my own journey and beliefs. 

When life is good and prosperity is wide-spread, it's easy to get caught up in the things that divide us.  Petty and not petty issues, cause us to write angry Tweets or scathing blog posts, but then something big happens, something like the event we remember today.  And our world is rocked.  And for a moment, we remember the thing that unites us: our freedom and our desire to preserve it.  I walked out this morning and five of the eight houses on my street were flying American flags.  I know my neighbors.  We are Catholic, Mormon, Agnostic and unaffiliated.  We are Democrats and Republicans.  We live in traditional families and untraditional families.  We don't agree on everything, in fact,  sometimes we don't agree at all.  But we listen to each other, we respect each other, and we look out for each other.  To me that's what being free is all about.