Facing Freedom’s Fragility

There is some wisdom which is most easily understood when viewed through the lens of time or, put another way, experience is a wonderful teacher.  I never really grasped this concept when much younger although now that I’m into my sixth decade of existence on this plane I am beginning to truly embrace this reality.  The passage of time can heal all but it can also provide perspectives which often may not be particularly positive in nature.  Being human we can always invoke denial and fail to entertain those perspectives which might leave one feeling uncomfortable if not downright concerned.  But doing so is somewhat akin to not liking sunlight and hence living in the darkness as much as possible.

Of late I’ve pondered whether the world truly is as crazy as it seems or whether I’m just older and less capable of ‘going with flow’ and less willing to entertain new and different outlooks simply because doing so requires upsetting my carefully constructed ‘reality’.  I have to say at this point I’m feeling it is probably a 50/50 mix; yes, the world has become a much faster moving and less ‘controlled’ place but without question I am becoming more and more settled in my ways and tend to lean towards ‘neophobism’ despite my best efforts to fight such an attitude.  But there are some things I know are ‘right’ and others that are ‘wrong’; most usually this involves checking one’s moral compass.  And since our moral compass is not static but grows and develops with time it is a worthwhile task to routinely check just where one stands on issues and events across one’s life.

Something I’ve seen across my 62 years which does concern me is the steady erosion of American’s personal freedoms.  There are so many examples but I feel this is one of those observations best viewed through the lens of time.  When I was a teenager 45 years ago my father would sometimes read something in the local paper regarding increasing crime or similar, sigh, and tell me; “Your generation is losing more and more freedoms to the liberal philosophy”.  Of course, at that age I tended to lean more to the liberal side so this would often spark intense discussions. 

He was born and raised in downtown Detroit in the 1920’s and 1930’s; to hear him talk of life during those times was fascinating.  He would tell me that no one locked their houses when they went out and during hot summer nights it was not uncommon to see entire families sleeping outdoors on their porches or in hammocks.  To me this seemed almost unimaginable as we were living in the early to middle 1960’s when President Johnson’s ‘Great Society’ had started a war on poverty through entitlements and the construction of huge housing complexes for the poor.  Along with this came more empathy with criminals based upon their upbringing and other ‘life factors’ as well as a desire to ‘drag down the bar’ when it came to schooling through the infamous busing programs.  These housing complexes tended to be in the downtown sections of major cities and had the outcome of concentrating poorer folks in and around such facilities.  Sadly, as this occurred crime rates sky-rocketed and the ‘rot’ of the inner cities was exacerbated giving rise to more crime.  In the 1960’s no one in downtown Detroit would think of leaving their homes unlocked – even if they were home – and only a fool would think of sleeping outside overnight.  In this sense Dad was spot on; because the country had chosen a particular path we had lost some of our personal freedoms and most have not returned even 55 years later.

At that time I really couldn’t argue with his observations and conclusions; city dwelling Americans had lost some personal freedoms as the federal government mandated social changes.  I’ll let you, the reader, evaluate whether or not these losses are counterbalanced by whatever ‘good’ was gleaned from their imposition.  But now I can flash forward another fifty or so years and see the continued erosion of personal freedom in America.  When I was in my teens I hitch-hiked quite a bit and often traversed hundreds of miles via my thumb and smile.  While it was becoming somewhat unsafe many folks continued to practice the art as a means of getting around.  Now forward to today; only folks with no other options would even consider hitch-hiking in the lower 48 and I’d bet when forced to do so such people are anxious and concerned.  In addition a lot of folks trying to hitch-hike may have less than morally upright agendas which cause many drivers to just keep on driving.  Yes, I realize it is different up here – welcome to Alaska! – as using one’s thumb to travel around the state is common place.  I’ve picked up many a hitch-hiker on the Spur and throughout the state.  But this is born from an understanding that most folks seeking a ride up here just need to get from point A to point B and are thankful for the lift.  And some of the best conversations I’ve had since moving up here have come after picking up someone in need of a lift.

Now I realize not being able to safely hitch-hike in the lower 48 may seem like a small thing but it is an example of another personal freedom lost.  I’ve seen many more based upon the PC driven need to make everyone part of some ‘grand accounting’.  While support for the LGBT community is something good which has largely come from this push there are so many other instances in which the outcome has not been positive.  As a culture we seemed to have reached a consensus that even one person’s needs – perceived or not – equal and often outweigh those of the many.  This ludicrous need for humans born of one sex but ‘self-identifying’ with another requiring access to traditionally ‘one gender’ restrooms is but one example.  How did we get to the point the discomfort and anxiety felt by someone entering a specific gender bathroom but seeing someone of the other gender using it has no meaning?  Sadly, I could go on and on.

Without question we Americans are slowly losing more and more personal freedom to federal and state government over-reach as well as to the advancement of extreme philosophies.  Almost as concerning to me is the apparent acceptance of this trend by ‘we the people’.  Progress is essential in any culture to prevent stagnation but ‘progress’ which requires abrogation of our personal freedom is not something we should embrace.  We all need to recognize that over time we continue to lose more of our personal freedom; at some point our progeny may see the day when the concept of personal freedom is a quaint notion belonging in a museum.  Is this something worth aspiring to..??