Rosie the RIveter

Freedom


We begin with an incontrovertible fact, even as facts are so very 2015:

We have a lot of very big problems, challenges and opportunities in America and mounting them will require that we all get on board the solutions train. This will require our work, our sacrifice, our brilliance, our creativity and our cooperation in ways not demanded of us since WW II.

It’s my belief that if we succeed we will assure our prosperity and our leadership of this century. If we fail to do what is necessary, we will relegate ourselves to decline, insignificance and, at last, we’ll lose our freedoms.

We have fostered our decline through our anger, our rage, our self-righteousness and hatreds, which have led us to the lightning-charged divide that separates us from one another, where I-and-Mine are far more important than We-and-Ours. Sadly, we seem to have forgotten the lesson so painfully demonstrated and then laid bare by Abraham Lincoln, that a house divided against itself cannot stand. Whatever your personal certainties, you may safely be certain of that.

We are a nation borne of revolution, accurately seeing ourselves then as the underdog and we still prefer the underdog. Think: Rocky; whatever team is playing the team Tom Brady is quarterbacking; Star Wars; the Cubs. You get the idea.

We still think there’s something heroic when the little guy confronts the big guys and I’m wondering how much that fuels the popular resentment of those who have been called the “elites.” Never mind that the elites are equal citizens, that they actually may have earned what they have or that it’s possible they are creating opportunities for so many of us. There are those bent on resenting them and that helps to enlarge our national divide.

We have a lot of personal liberty absolutists, like the Michigan militia perps who plotted to kidnap and execute the Michigan governor  because they believed their freedom was abridged by her measures to stop the pandemic. They first expressed their displeasure by brazenly refusing to follow simple health guidelines to protect all of us, then by storming the state capitol armed with semi-automatic military assault rifles and waving Don’t Tread On Me flags, as though King George III had returned. They were clear about what they think our pandemic is about: it is about their own personal freedom. I-and-Mine.

They reminded me of Cliven Bundy, the Nevada cattle rancher who initiated a standoff against federal and state agents in 2014. Bundy had failed to pay his grazing fees on federal land for over 20 years and the Bureau of Land Management at last came to collect. Dozens, perhaps hundreds, of armed anti-government absolutists joined Bundy. They proudly proclaimed that government overreach was the issue, that they were the true patriots and that the government didn’t and shouldn’t own and control land. They and Bundy apparently saw themselves as the freedom heroes of the story.

Bundy’s son Ammon seemed determined to have his own self-righteous fit of freedom in his occupation of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge in Oregon two years later. What they all have in common with our militias today is their clarity that I-and-Mine is more important than We-and-Ours. They thought that the federal land was theirs to do with as they pleased, regardless of the impact on others.

And that’s the problem. We cannot overcome our 21st century challenges and grab our opportunities if everyone acts as though s/he is an independent nation with absolute freedom of their own. So, I have something for folks like the Bundys and the camouflaged members of the Michigan militia who balk at anything that smacks of being an order or even simple direction.

Go ahead and refuse to wear a mask, socially distance or wash your hands. Stand proud and defiant. Feel free (I know you do) to congregate inside in small and large gatherings, in bars and saloons, in basement man caves and anywhere else you like. Spread COVID-19 within your freedom bubble in the manner of your choosing.

But when you become sick, as you surely will, when you have a fever and your body aches all over, when you’re weak and you can barely breathe and you feel like you’re drowning, don’t go to the hospital. You’ve done everything possible to ensure that you get sick – you had the freedom to do that. Now it will be time to man-up, to accept the consequences of your actions and not burden others who have played by the rules of We-and-Ours.

At that point it won’t be okay to dump your sick body onto the workload of our already horribly overworked and exhausted healthcare people. Just go into the woods and die alone. You have the freedom to do that. You will have lived your personal philosophy of I-and-Mine to the end and with your last tiny breath you will know that you died as you lived, all about you.

That’s absolute stuff, offered here as an extreme example to make the point that we don’t have to agree, but we do have to work together or we’ll metaphorically all die alone in the woods.

We have to stop our rugged individual stubbornness and our rages against authority. We have to agree that our absolute personal freedom stops at the tip of another person’s nose. We have to stop denying reality in some fit of grievance or resentment or denial. We have to stop listening to the hate mongers, the liars, the conspiracy theory con artists and the political manipulators. We have to hold our elected officials to account and call out their self-serving lies and then fire them. And if they’re criminals (no, that doesn’t mean “political opponents”) they have to go to prison.

And enough with so-called “alternative facts,” because they aren’t facts at all. They’re lies that make us weak. Even as difficult as it may be, we have to recognize that we are all on the same ship, and we will all share in its fate. Our future success lies in We and Ours.

So, we all have to roll up our shirtsleeves and partner with Rosie the Riveter. Our freedom is at stake in ways not even contemplated since WW II and surely not contemplated by our angry militants bent on assaulting other Americans. It’s time to build a new America, which makes it time to put down the guns and pick up a hammer. To those who won’t do that, get the hell out of the way of those of us who still think patriotism is a verb and it means that every one of us has an obligation to all of us.

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Ed. note: We need to spread the word so that we make a critical difference, so,

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JA


Copyright 2021 by Jack Altschuler
Reproduction and sharing are encouraged, providing proper attribution is given.

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