The election season brings many issues to the forefront of voters’ minds: the economy, foreign policy, immigration, taxes, education, health care, the military, terrorism, the environment, energy and, of course, we can’t escape the social issues of human rights.
Each of these issues is complex. That’s because our society is complex. There are thoughtful, insightful and honest people with positions on every side of each issue. Rarely are the issues “black and white.” On top of that, there are conflicting values within each issue. It can be overwhelmingly confusing!
This season is an opportunity to examine and prioritize our values. I would suggest that as we do this, the issue of freedom should rise to the very top of our list. We should look at every issue through the lens of freedom.
Freedom is what has made America great. America was founded by pioneers and patriots who deeply sought freedom. Every human being is “endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness”. We pledge allegiance to the concept of “liberty and justice for all.” We live in and sing of “the land of the free and the home of the brave.” Regardless of our culture, religion, gender or social status, we all want freedom. This desire is not something that we just learn from our parents, teachers or society. It is something far deeper, embedded in the genetic code of each human being. Freedom is what every child wants from his or her parents. Freedom is why virtually every war is fought. Freedom is why Nelson Mandela, Mahatma Gandhi and Martin Luther King, Jr. mobilized armies of protesters.
Freedom allows us to grow to our potential and pursue our dreams. But freedom never guarantees the realization of any dream. It only allows for the pursuit. It also allows for failure. If we are to be free to succeed we must also be free to fail. Unfortunately, freedom also allows us to sink to the lowest levels of depravity.
Thus, freedom requires responsibility. I cannot experience freedom unless you grant it to me. Nor can you realize your freedom unless I give it to you. Despite being an “unalienable right,” freedom is only granted to us by others. Our responsibility, then, is to ensure that we give it to all others and that we never abuse this gift from others, showing that we can use it in a responsible and uplifting manner. So I would suggest that as we analyze any issue, that we consider its impact on our personal and corporate freedom. Will it enhance our freedom and thus our potential for growth, or will it stifle our freedom and thus repress our spirit? It may be tempting to give up a small amount of freedom for some short term gain, but we will pay in the long term if we lose our freedom. Freedom is foundational for America if we are to remain leader of the “free world”.