“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. — That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed.” Declaration of Independence (excerpt)
“The Lord sent Nathan to David. When he came to him, he said, “There were two men in a certain town, one rich and the other poor. The rich man had a very large number of sheep and cattle, but the poor man had nothing except one little ewe lamb he had bought. He raised it, and it grew up with him and his children. It shared his food, drank from his cup and even slept in his arms. It was like a daughter to him.
“Now a traveler came to the rich man, but the rich man refrained from taking one of his own sheep or cattle to prepare a meal for the traveler who had come to him. Instead, he took the ewe lamb that belonged to the poor man and prepared it for the one who had come to him.”
David burned with anger against the man and said to Nathan, “As surely as the Lord lives, the man who did this must die! He must pay for that lamb four times over, because he did such a thing and had no pity.”
Then Nathan said to David, “You are the man! This is what the Lord, the God of Israel, says: ‘I anointed you king over Israel, and I delivered you from the hand of Saul. I gave your master’s house to you, and your master’s wives into your arms. I gave you all Israel and Judah. And if all this had been too little, I would have given you even more. Why did you despise the word of the Lord by doing what is evil in his eyes? You struck down Uriah the Hittite with the sword and took his wife to be your own. You killed him with the sword of the Ammonites. Now, therefore, the sword will never depart from your house, because you despised me and took the wife of Uriah the Hittite to be your own.”
2 Samuel 12
“You are the man.” Such poignant words for this time in America. I will readily admit, some of the complexities of politics escape me. I tend to simplify complicated issues down to the most basic foundation I can find. In this day and age of extreme polarization and subjective news coverage, I cannot possibly comprehend it all. So I will stick with the simple. “Life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness,” does not guarantee specific outcomes for the individual. Period. Full stop.
I’m fully cognizant that the word, “life” to some means food, shelter and clothing. To some it may mean affordable healthcare, or marriage rights. Yet others, free gun ownership, and lower taxes. There is a massive host of needs and desires defined as “life.” This variance of personal definitions will always cause contention in the political arena. How can it not?
I spoke to the idea of “liberty” recently, in the sense that liberty for all may feel like oppression to some. There is no way around it! If I am to have liberty and you are to have liberty we will most likely butt heads at some point on that path. When we don’t back away from the head butting, liberty turns to war.
Voting is a great example. I contend that being pissed off about who your friends and family voted for makes you more of a despot than a believer in liberty. You are playing God if you think you know what is right for all people, all of the time. You are seeing unique individuals as a stepping-stone to what you desire instead of a free being in their own right. Maybe I have a little Polly Anna in me because I believe what each man does day in and day out will define this country. Plenty of countries could use some convicted people to stand up and revolt in the face of dictators or theocracies. But is this really what we are dealing with?
Shit-on-a-stick, I know not everyone is a thoughtful voter. But I also know that people have reasons and reasonable people disagree. Fact of life. I know that some have strong convictions and will fight to the end for them. I support you. But demanding that every other person has the same view? No. Not liberty.
Forgive me, but when your personal pursuit of liberty does not go the way you planned, that does not mean your pursuit was taken away from you. Keep going. Find another way. Find community that supports you. Love your life as it is instead of being afraid it is not equal to someone else’s.
Damn-it-all, I’ve been there and done that. My life experiences cannot begin to give me the understanding towards many other people’s experiences. Noted. How about you? Do you know mine? Do you know what would help me and what I need? Do you know where I have been hurt or oppressed? And finally, can you say for one second that it is your job or the government’s job to make everything ok for me? I’d guess not.
Please hear my heart on this. No definition of liberty includes lawlessness to me. It is not liberty in action if someone has sexually assaulted or battered you in any way. It is not liberty if long-term policies oppress a class of people. It is not liberty to devalue anyone based on religion, sexual orientation or race. But be very careful. As Paul Friere states so eloquently, “The oppressed, instead of striving for liberation, tend themselves to become oppressors.”