Happy 4th of July! Today is Independence Day. The day when our forefathers said enough to oppression and opted to risk overthrowing what was known for an experiment that guaranteed freedom for all. (Sadly, still working on that). They declared their independence from a sovereign nation which determined what they did and said.
I think when we ask for independence we need to remember that independence demands responsibility. I believe our forefathers understood that concept. While they may have had differences of opinion about the logistics of the democratic republic experiment they demonstrated through actions the understanding that there are two sides of the idea of freedom.
In order to have independence, one has to be responsible. As a child grows and matures, he wants to begin doing things himself. That is natural and healthy. But part of the growing up process is realizing that one is not the center of the universe. A child also has to begin realizing that nothing happens in a vacuum: what one person decides to do affects another. His actions will cause an action for someone else. For example, I might want to drive my car wherever I want but I have to be responsible for following the rules of the road or there will be major accidents. I can have the freedom of driving but I have to balance my independence with responsibility.
It is through responsibility of thinking of others that the action of independence can occur. It is the responsibility of our leaders and our citizens to think. If not, chaos can ensue.
I believe our current leaders have forgotten that they are responsible for all the citizens in the country, not just the ones that give them adoration. What is the greater good beyond the vote? Is it only economic gain for the ones who have voted for you? The leaders have to remind themselves that they represent an independent and responsible nation. Just because they have been elected into an office by a certain majority of individuals, they have to be adult and think of all citizens as they make rules, laws and policies.
As citizens we are responsible for critical thinking of what is happening in our government. We cannot abdicate our responsibility of thinking. If we do, then those who are leaders can interfere and interject their thoughts, ideas, decisions on the non-thinking public. When we are not thinking responsibly, we abdicate our right to have an informed opinion. No longer are we free in our governing experiment. We are responsible when we listen, question, vote, discuss, argue, and agree to disagree. We are not responsible when we bully, shout, dismiss, or demand that the opposition do exactly as we say or else greater retribution.
I think Thomas Jefferson understood the tension of government and people with his above quote. Just like the tension between independence and responsibility we have to constantly adjust and reflect on the size of government and how much we expect the government to do versus the things that we can do.
So, Happy 4th of July. It is a wonderful time and a great celebration. While our great American experiment has its rocky moments, I wouldn't trade living here under its messy, difficult governance with any other place.