Friday, April 9, 2010

A Brave New World

It is my hope that for those of you who know me, or who have at least read my posts in the past, will attest that I am a proponent of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. It is very clear to me, and, I would wager, anyone else who’s read the US Constitution, that the authors of that historic document had truly believed in and sought after those very ideals. These ideas are simple and yet again…not simple. Well over 100 years prior to the Revolutionary war colonists who had many different motivations left their homes, families, and communities and set out for a strange and unknown land. Their lives were most often filled with desperation, starvation, deprivation of all sort, sickness, misery and eventual death. So, what would prompt these people to give up relative comfort for a life fraught with hardship, loss, grief, pain and death? I believe it was hope. Hope drove them to consider a life that would one day eventually be better than the one they had. A life where they were truly their own masters and had the freedom and liberty to choose their own road. This road as I’ve mentioned earlier was most often hard and it is difficult for those alive today to understand why one would choose that life.

I believe whilst most American’s claim to still believe in and hold these truths to be self-evident, they neither really understand them nor want them anymore. Life. Sure we each want to continue living and it is almost silly to consider this as a basic human right, however, in 1973 judicial activists decided that all life is really not equal. History provides many examples of what happens when societies lose sight of the value of individual life and the result has always been tragic. This, in my opinion, is happening today because we each are so consumed with the day to day minutia which makes up our own lives that we cannot be bothered to stand up for something so esoteric as “life”. Why should we care what happens? As long as it doesn’t affect me I don’t care. This has been the American attitude for many years. We flatter and lie to ourselves saying we really do care about others but God forbid that caring would take time away from dancing with the stars.

This leads nicely into the next self-evident truth: Liberty. Again, the average American man or woman has little to no idea of what liberty truly means. Nor, I would say do they care.

Over the last forty years our liberty has become less and less important. We can no longer pray in school, around the school, on sidewalks, in public buildings, or anywhere someone might complain. Notice, I didn’t mention Christianity at all but I be that’s where your mind took you when you read the word prayer. We’ve given up our property rights, personal rights, allowed our government into our homes, hearts, businesses and schools. We’ve given up our liberty in the form of free speech. It is considered a “hate” crime to speak negatively toward another person. We have been limited to where we can smoke, what we can eat, when and where we can travel, what we can say and who we can say it to. For the longest time I couldn’t figure out why the American people seemed so blasé about giving up their personal liberty when it is so blatantly clear that this is one of the primary reasons this nation was founded. Finally, it dawned on me that American’s have chosen to give up their liberty because like children we don’t want the responsibility that goes along with it. Our government that was once “by the people” and “for the people” has taken the place of our parents. We have relinquished our responsibility to the government because life is “hard” and American’s predominantly believe they are entitled to an easy life simply because they are Americans. We don’t want to choose anymore; we want to be told. It’s too hard to discipline ourselves, eat in moderation, and exercise. We’d rather be told what we can and cannot eat, and if you don’t think that’s where our new health care legislation is going your fooling yourself.

Look at smoking as an example of where our benevolent and ever watchful government will take us. At one time people were free to smoke where they wanted: in their cars, homes, yards, restaurants, places of business and so on. Today, our society has come so far that smokers are now an anathema often shunned and hidden by businesses behind buildings, legally banned from restaurants and bars and any public place. These restrictions were put into place to “protect” the society at large from the ravages of second hand smoke. Understand that I am not a smoker. I never have nor do I wish my kids to be exposed to second hand smoke when we go to places like restaurants, movie theaters or any other public place. This is my own personal choice however and I will not begrudge smokers their right to personal liberty. There was a time when smokers had their place and non-smokers theirs. If you didn’t want to inhale second-hand smoke you didn't go to places where people smoked. It was that simple. Our liberty should be exercised by our free choice not be limited or infringed upon by legal mandate.

Recently, many companies are refusing to hire smokers at all and are motivated by insurance companies who offer better membership rates for non-smokers. Very soon businesses will be compelled, either financially or by law, to not only discriminate against smokers but also obese people. The idea is often times couched as “value based health care”. The idea at its core is sound. Each person is ultimately responsible for their own choices. This is the crux of that two edged blade that is Liberty. One the one side an individual is entitled to live his or her life as he or she sees fit. The other side is one of PERSONAL RESPONSIBILITY. This means that when one chooses to smoke cigarettes he or she is personally responsible for the health problems that may result from that choice. Is it our job as a community or is it the job of the government to save that individual from themselves? No. It is not. The same analogy can be made for a person who drinks too much or eats too much. No one makes a person go into a fast food restaurant and eat too much. No one forces a person to drink alcohol. It is a personal choice and one that has consequences. For many years American’s have demanded the choice but not accepted the responsibility that was associated with it. So, now in the guise of health care reform the government has accepted that responsibility and will, like any parent, soon begin to limit liberty in an attempt to control the cost associated with this responsibility.

Finally we come to the pursuit of happiness. Of all these inalienable rights this should be the easiest for people to embrace. This fits hand in hand with personal liberty and life. The pursuit of happiness is allowing each of us the personal freedom to choose our own paths in life. Whatever your definition of happiness is you should not be limited or hindered in your quest. Each of us is accountable for our own actions and should be afforded the freedom to choose. I think if we are honest we could each confess that at one time or another in our lives we’ve each made choices that were unwise and tasted of that bitter fruit as a reward. Liberty and the pursuit of happiness means that we, and not the government, are responsible for our own actions and are entitled to reap the harvest of those decisions whether good or ill.

Regardless of whether you are left or right, liberal or conservative, republican or democrat I believe it is our duty as Americans to embrace these inalienable truths and allow your fellow American’s to do likewise.