So many of my conversations lately have involved the word freedom and how all of us come to different understandings of the word. Our individual right to “live free” is debated daily on the news. It doesn’t matter if you get news from social media, television, or radio. There are those who continue to believe that their individual rights supersede the rights of other Americans.
This creates an impossible situation for all of us. This divisiveness leaks into every aspect of community life. Friends and family with differing political views put on their blinders. They start with their own version of name-calling and bullying. Some of us react instantly and engage, as after all, it is what we have come to expect. There is no way that community collaboration toward solving disagreements can take place once this has started. We all have our own triggers and we have become especially vulnerable to choosing sides when someone or something near and dear to our hearts is being threatened,
In my last column, I mentioned one trigger for me recently. It was the increasing abuse of our public spaces, especially our parks in both the rural and urban parts of our state. As a lifelong outdoors enthusiast, backpacking, cross-country skiing and hiking, the word “freedom” to either regulate or use our public lands entered most every public decision-making meeting. It didn’t take long for discussions to morph into debates and then all-out brawls. It was part of the reason violence formed in so many public venues. The gauntlet that I happened to find myself running every so often in my own daily life, no matter how much I held back my own opinion, made me feel compelled to respond.
So many people like me that have been personally affected by the pandemic suddenly were no longer moderates. It did not matter whether they or a loved one came down with Covid-19, they were caretaking a vulnerable family member, lost their jobs or had to learn how to navigate in a completely different world. We can all continue to be angry.
This need for everyone to feel that it is okay to succumb to street fighting and uttering a battle cry of our own isn’t going anywhere. Those of us who have retired from the rat race, yet occupied ourselves in other ways besides a full-time job or raising our families, soon found ourselves being forced to change our daily schedules. We had learned how to stay home and were now simply trying to survive.
The public spaces in all of our communities were affected greatly, as even the smallest communities are facing the increased costs and other cumbersome requirements of maintaining these spaces. I admitted in this column last week that I am tired and testy with those folks who spout those words “I live free” to excuse all sorts of bad behavior. My own resentment has built up and I either tell people when I run into them or write out my frustration. As I say often in these difficult times, I am tired of being labeled and saddled with the constant implication that I do not appreciate my freedom. This says that I prefer to lose any freedoms guaranteed me by the Constitution, as someone else interprets it.
I am a big believer that the people who we choose to represent us perform their duty with dedication and competence. I was raised to take action with my vote and realized over the years that not all of us were so lucky. Nowadays, there seems to be no room for moderation of any sort, as that toxic political arena has seeped into all aspects of our public lives.
Amazingly our commonalities are quite evident. Our political divisions have not been able to disassemble our democratic practices. Inflammatory political signs, slogans, and bumper stickers only serve as fuel for these violent eruptions… Those who are staking a visible public claim to all of our inalienable rights are sure that they will sway everyone and their particular view of what is happening in our country will prevail.
There are still those among us who urge everyone to take a chill pill, so to speak. Mom, apple pie, and the American flag is still going strong.
By DOLLY VISCARDI – Special to the Herald Times