Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Are Freedoms really free?

I love this country.

I love all of the freedoms this country has to offer:  life, liberty, the pursuit of happiness.  That we can learn what we want to learn, work at a jobs that provide us with the foundation to support ourselves and our families.  That we have the ability to worship in a house of religion, pray quietly in our own home, or do neither without repercussions.  I love that we live in a democratic society--that we have a say in our government.  I love that we have a military strong enough to defend these freedoms.  I love the variety of cultures that make up this great nation and the people that represent them.  I love that this country has so many great citizens, and yet there are people out there whose dream is nothing more than to be a part of it.  I love The Star Spangled Banner, Old Glory, fireworks on the 4th of July, turkey at Thanksgiving and mom's apple pie.

OK...I don't know that my mother ever made apple pie, but I know that Marie Callender's bakes a pretty vicious version.

I think it's wonderful that I can speak my mind about issues, that someone else can stand directly across from me expressing the exact opposite view, and that neither of us can be thrown in jail for speaking our words aloud. 

But I also have to say that there is something in the air in this country that is starting to scare me just a little bit.

I don't know if I'm the only person who's noticed this, but there seems to be a lot of anger and resentment in this country these days.  I don't have a "Pollyanna" personality by any means, and don't believe that the world is all sunshine, flowers and rainbows; but I also just don't recall there being so many "mean-ness" as there seems to be now.  Maybe it's that there never used to be so many ways for people to express themselves that I just never noticed how many harsh words are spoken or written on a daily basis.  But turn on the TV, open to the editorial page in a newspaper or just read comments left on an article on line, and there just seems to be such cruelty in people's words towards each other. 

Are we breeding and feeding a nation of haters?

I am a native Tucsonan.  And though I don't live in Tucson any longer, I have family, friends and memories there.  Like many, I was crushed to see the events of Saturday, January 8th unfolding at a grocery store I used to stop at, in a shopping center I used to visit.  I could not believe that something like that could occur in my own hometown.  And yet, with as much anger as there seems to be floating around in the political arenas these days, somehow it shouldn't have surprised me either.  And maybe that's part of  the problem. 

I know people who harbor so much resentment towards our political system and figures these days that it verges on the brink of obsessive.  And these are normal, everyday types of people--coworkers, friends, colleagues; definitely not the type that you could envision picking up a weapon or blowing up a building.  And yet, the people that cause political acts of violence all started with just one unhappy thought or one angry word too.  

I don't know if the young man who picked up that gun last Saturday was politically motivated or not.  Maybe he was simply just angry at the world.  And maybe it just happened to be a misfortune that his path crossed those of a political figure; a congresswoman who simply wanted to do nothing more than go out and meet with her constituents.   But in the end, all she was doing was just her job.  No different than a father who went off to work on April 19th, 1995 at the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building--a father with no other thought on his mind that day than that he needed to earn a paycheck in order to pay for the roof over his family's head.  No different than a janitor who picked up an extra shift at his job in Lower Manhattan on September 11th, 2001 because he was trying to earn a few extra dollars for a classes at night school.   We're all just trying to make our way through our daily lives; we're all just trying to earn a dollar to make those lives better, to provide for ourselves and our families.  I'd like to think I'm a big believer in "live and let live".

I just don't understand where all of this anger seems to be coming from.

Don't get me wrong....I am all for being able to express one's thoughts...but I'm wondering if there just comes a point when too much is too much. Too much anger. Too much discontent. Maybe if we stopped being so angry at all the things that have happened recently, stopped looking for someone to blame, and maybe tried to constructively do something to make things better, maybe the general attitude in the air would improve and things could at least start to feel a little more positive.  I'm not saying that the world has to break out in song or that we have to "buy the world a Coke"...but despite all of the ways that we can express our opinions, I'm wondering if it's time to resort back to what we all learned in kindergarten....that if you don't have anything nice to say, don't say it at all.  Maybe it's even time to update that thought a bit.  If you don't have anything nice to say or write...don't say or write it.  Maybe it's not even about having something "nice"...maybe that needs to be changed to "constructive"...."helpful"..."reasonable".  I'm not saying that it has to be the death of free speech...but does it have to always come out so hateful sounding? so many other people, last Saturday made me stop and think a bit.   It's not the first tragedy we've endured and sadly I'm sure it won't be the last.  But if we all did our part to not encourage the hate, maybe we can at least keep the next event from happening for a long, long, long time.