Santa Clarita Signal • Ethically Speaking Column • For July 2nd Weekender, 2016
David W. Hegg
I love July 4th, and all it stands for. I remember lying on my back in the middle of a huge part in Boise, Idaho watching the magnificent fireworks display that ended our 1976 Bicentennial celebration. As a young college student I was proud of our nation, proud of our heritage, and prouder still that I could have a part in the next generation of American achievement.
But I fear independence as a personal right is slowly undermining the freedom originally intended by the forefathers who dared put power in the hands of the public.
Independence as a national value was never intended to cancel out the need for personal interdependence among our country’s citizenry. Our whole democracy was built on the supposition that for America to be great we must be good, with “good” being measure by standards of decency and love of neighbor arising from the Judeo-Christian world.
Today independence is not seen as freedom from foreign dominance as much as it is understood to grant individual freedom from external restraint. Under this nuanced sense of independence, everyone must recognize my “independence” and refrain from putting any boundaries on my beliefs, or my self-defined rights.
Remember the famous 3rd grade retort when a classmate started to do something you didn’t appreciate? “It’s a free country and I can do what I want.” Back then it was humorous. Today it is dangerous.
What we are losing is a sense of mutual interdependence based on mutual restraint in areas that would both harm my neighbor and derail our concerted effort to preserve the freedoms we all need. What we are seeing is an army of discontents who have hammered their frustrations into swords designed to hack away at any freedom that dares attempt to place restraints on their behavior. All around the resounding cry of “it’s a free country and we can do as we please” really means “If you try and stop us you’ll be branded a bigot, and an enemy of human rights.”
In two days we’ll celebrate the valiant efforts of those who fought to free us as a nation from British rule. And as we enjoy family and food, we take time to remember what such enjoyment really costs. But amidst the joy, be aware we are once again fighting to preserve the very freedoms we gained through toil and trouble in our fight for independence.
Today religious liberty is under attack. Today moral standards are being either re-written or torn down. Today tyrannical demands are being placed on businesses, churches, and families without regard to their freedoms under the 2nd Amendment. Why? Largely because they dare to uphold standards of morality, religious preference and practices centuries old, and an allegiance to constitutionally protected rights that are today considered outside the bounds of politically correct living. They dare to proclaim that individual independence and freedom does not mean everyone can do what is right in their own eyes.
I maintain the whole concept of “independence” has been derailed by special interests attempting to robe themselves in patriotism. It is not patriotic to undermine the moral values of our nation. It is not patriotic to re-interpret our governing documents to outlaw beliefs, ideas, and practices that have been foundational to our nation’s strength and health. It is certainly not patriotic to scorn and persecute those who still believe “In God We Trust” has a fundamental place in our society.
Yes, we are a pluralistic nation. Yes, we are a people with many different worldviews. But our freedom has always been built on our ability to stand together against common enemies trying to enslave us. Let us not ever forget that our independence nationally will depend on our mutual dependence individually. We can and will differ. For the sake of our children and our children’s children, let us carry out our differences differently from those whose only desire is to divide us, conqueror us, and then spend their lives cheering our demise.