The definition of freedom has always been a challenge in our country. What does it mean? Are there limits? Is there a responsibility that comes with freedom? What about rights? Are they all absolute?
In grade school, I was taught my right to swing my fist ends where someone else’s nose begins, but that does not define the concept. I took some time to review two of our country’s founding documents: the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution. I do not claim to be a constitutional law expert, but many of the freedoms I hear people claiming these days seem conspicuously absent from these documents.
I encourage you to look for yourself. When you read them, you may find these documents interesting, rather than take someone else’s word for it. I found particularly interesting the focus our founders placed on working together for the common good. That seems to be lost today as we focus on individual cultural crusades.
For example, do you know the final sentence of the Declaration of Independence? I didn’t off the top of my head.
“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.”
Or who could forget the preamble to the Constitution?
“We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.”
It seems that many among us have forgotten that we are a united country and that we are better together, stronger together. And the founders were committed to promoting the general welfare of the people.
Some voices locally loudly tell you that our government has taken away our freedoms. Many of these loud voices have benefited from taxpayer-funded programs and projects over the years. Now that they have made their fortunes, they feel it is time to push back against those programs and shut them down.
In my pondering this morning, I keep coming back to one definition of freedom that seems, unfortunately, to be the best definition today: financial security and opportunity.
That’s what it all boils down to. Education? Medicaid? Food programs? Affordable housing? Environmental protections? These programs are designed to provide a safety net to encourage what the declaration calls “Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”
The wealthiest don’t see a direct benefit in dollars in their own pockets, so they want to cut them. They claim Paycheck Protection Program funding and agriculture subsidies while telling you that cutting investments in our communities is for your good.
Heat and food are overrated.
This legislative session, take a good, long look at what is being proposed, passed and signed into law. Who benefits?
In the end, you are likely to find yourself at the short end of the stick. Again.
David Roth is a nonprofit executive director and the chair of the Bonneville County Democratic Central Committee.