Revelations that America’s government is collecting incomprehensible amounts of data on how we exist and communicate has left us facing profound questions. For me the first is, are we free anywhere?
For now we are free in our minds. Free to think anything we want. We can think awful or wonderful things about other people; we are free to do that.
Freedom of thought is the genesis of all our freedoms and rights. Someone thought of The Declaration of Independence, The Constitution and The Bill of Rights. But those thoughts only mattered when they were shared, discussed and turned into something real.
The First Amendment protects our speech from government control, among other things. But, the truth is, speech is not and will never be entirely free.
People pay, literally and figuratively, for things they say all the time.We have all done it.
Heard something we don’t like or agree with and used that to judge or dismiss instantly.
We may have shunned or been shunned for saying something.
People are fired and not hired for things they have said.
That isn’t all bad. There is a responsibility that comes with free expression and there are consequences.
The problem comes when fear prevents people from sharing their ideas. And it is a threat to our freedom we can fix.
The genius of America is born of the idea that, “We the People of the United States” established the constitution, created America, and it is just a “more perfect Union.”
The brilliance of America is the commitment to the journey, the idea that perfection can be strived for. Likely never achieved, but strived for nonetheless.
Remembering that we the people are the power I ask you to consider this:.What if we protected each other’s privacy by striving harder to respect each other’s thoughts?
It’s too easy to instantly agree or disagree.
Should there be a third preferred reaction to hearing something that makes your head spin or blood boil? What if your instinct was to think about it?
If, after giving another person’s thought fair consideration, you find yourself undaunted in your belief, what have you lost? Not your temper, not your pride nor your dignity.
But you have created something. You have, for a moment, created freedom. You have let someone with an idea express themselves without suffering.
Isn’t that what America is about?
Isn’t this how ideas, and, thus, America, improve?
We deliberate and discuss leaving good ideas to flourish and others to fall by the wayside. Civility must remain in a civilization.
Ideas are like a ditch that isn’t dug. Ditches can be useful, but not dug, they are a lot like a good idea that isn’t shared and acted on.
Imagine I want a ditch in my yard and I ask my neighbor for help. She might think the ditch is better a foot left or right. She might be right or wrong. But once we have discussed and decided then we are ready to dig, ready to make the idea of my ditch real.
A ditch is certainly a simplified example. Issues, like taxes, health care, and national defense, are not. But why become angry or mad when discussing them with someone who doesn’t think about it like you do?
Worse than that -- not listening at all, dismissing them outright, or vilifying those that express them. How is anything achieved in these scenarios? Some might even call it un-American.
In my opinion there is a “shovel ready” job every American can start today. That job is creating moments of freedom and listening with an open mind. You might be amazed what you get in return, perhaps even a “more perfect Union.”