I am a Canadian. I am not anti-american. You know it’s going to be good when it starts that way.
The following thoughts are not anti-american. They are an outsider’s view of a fascinating history with an opinionated leaning.
None of us are free.
It all started with health care….
There is an incredible undercurrent of suspicion that I pick up on in this country. It’s a suspicion directed squarely at the government. This is not a universal suspicion but I don’t think it’s out of place to say that it’s prevalent. And there is plenty of good reason – the government that this country broke away from was supposedly pretty oppressive. Even in the past 100 years, it’s been prove that government officials have lied to pursue or protect American interests.
It was this oppression, this suspicion, the lies, and worse that led several to declare a new nation absolved from allegiance to the British crown. A tyrant prince acting unjustly and repeating injury in response to repeated petitions drove away an entire people and caused revolt.
As it was, it was completely justified. July 4, 1776 will perpetually and rightfully remember as the birth of the wealthiest nation this planet has ever seen.
The declaration was for freedom from oppression.
The declaration was for independence.
Not entirely, however.
The declaration was also for a new sort of dependence.
With the final stroke of the pen, the founding fathers bound citizen’s of a new nation to each other. Declaring independence from the crown was at the same time a declaration for interdependence on one another. Butchers, and bakers, and brewers formed communities of people that were free to live to their own devices inasmuch as it were beneficial to the fledgling community.
They had freedom to live and choose and be with an understanding that an interdependence on everyone in community meant that sometimes our “freedom” to choose ought best to be in support of the entirety of society.
Freedom never means unchecked reality.
Turn the calendar ahead a couple hundred years or so and this place is very different. History has shaped the views of each citizen. Swarms of people vie for a place at America’s banqueting table where cups runneth over.
For many, our relentless pursuit for freedom has been hijacked by a culture that extols the virtues of independence, suggesting that the down and out pull themselves up by their boot straps, where the cream rises to the top, where self-made men and women have the most influence and the most inspiring stories. Never mind that this inspiration tends to be based mostly on the amount of individual wealth that can be amassed within legal-if-not-ethical systemic confines.
What we now long for is autonomy.
We want to each sign our own declarations of independence from the nation that first inspired such a radical move. We want to make our own rules and act to protect our own interests. This is paramount to our individual rights and freedoms. My hateful speech is justified by my individual worth and to deny my voice is to deny my sovereignty. My wealth has been earned by my own hard work free from the influence and efforts of others. Who is any entity to dictate how funds from my treasury are used.
We are empires of self.
Freedom implies that I make my own decisions within a set of confines established by some social order. Government, community, team, club, company, etc.
Autonomy expresses the idea of “self rule” – complete independence from everything. The autonomous are nations unto themselves.
We live and move and operate in a system that has corrupted the idea of community – that has exalted the individual at the expense of all else. A system that has promoted autonomy.
The same system can now have it’s own way with the hearts and minds of these individuals – free from the social checks of community. When others are of lower priority, our individual opinions trump the controlling processes introduced by others with whom we share mutual concern. We’re tempted to revolt. We’re tempted to declare our own independence.
As I’ve said, the founding father’s, by their very declaration of independence declared an almost socialistic dependence on one another:
“And for the support of this Declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of Divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes, and our sacred Honor.”
Autonomy rejects the understanding that as a human we are by definition communal beings, not only with our neighbors but with our generations of ancestors and our neighbors ancestors who have built the foundation on which we live our lives. We are but small hiccups in the fabric of space time as lonesome creatures – but in communities learning to live and love and support each other we can truly be significant. Autonomy lives free from history written by any victor but me. “This is my wealth. I earned it myself. I have sovereignty over my life.”
And so we come full circle to health care…..
This nation has adopted a bill that forms a strong framework on which a system that provides medical care to all of it’s citizens can be built because we believe that all men are created equal and has an unalienable right to life. It requires that citizen’s purchase health insurance – purchasing and the consumption being the very blood that courses through the nations core. Factions have expressed their view that government should not be the “single payer” for medical services, and other factions now say that government has no right to make me pay for medical coverage, even though my failure to do so will likely result in some cost to my neighbors.
If my actions don’t protect them, is it not the government’s right to ensure their protection?
We are looking for an autonomous answer that does not and cannot exist. Though our culture, our financial system, our educational systems all seem to champion the concept of self, we live completely dependent on those around us in even the most mundane aspects of our lives.
Our freedoms dictate that when our governments overstep their boundaries, we can register our disagreement with our votes, but even in that freedom we are dependent on scores of others to cast their ballots, to participate in their civic duty.
The hope that I have for this, my temporarily adopted nation, is that we reject this destructive, divisive view. The pursuit of an idealist freedom that so many people seem to be chasing is futile. Such a freedom does not and cannot exist. Realize that we are not enemies, that there is great pride in being your brother’s keeper, and that the pursuit of happiness can only be carried out within the rich confines of community.