There are indications many Americans need to go back to remedial citizenship class.
At the front of the class need to be a number of politicians who possess dangerously myopic understandings of what it means to be a citizen of the United States.
This class needs to begin with “remedial freedom,” going back to the fundamental basics of this nation.
Regrettably, the idea of freedom has been fused with selfishness in all its ways. This selfishness is first a focus on the self, or one could say a worship of the self. It is the world according to “me, myself and I.”
When this self-focused world expands by marriage and/or children, it is still a self-centered worldview: “us, ourselves and we.”
Whatever interaction one has with the larger community, the priority remains focused on our needs, our wants, our dreams, our goals and our success. The common, collective good does not factor into such thinking, unless it happens to align with these self-focused desires.
Such selfishness will not see beyond those limits to others or grant them permission to drink deeply of the “freedoms” they demand. At least in America, this selfishness has been pathologized into a white nationalism and the associated rights and privileges of being “white.”
So, beginning there and understanding that, one can begin to see how such selfishness really works against freedom in all its expressions. It always asks the questions, “But what about me?” or “What about my family?”
There is no larger “us” beyond those connected to the self-centered one – even those in close proximity are of lesser value and concern.
So, in this present environment, freedom is undermined and diminished. Bottom line: the freedom some demand can only exist with one person on an island surrounded by an ocean.
That is why our founding documents begin with, “We the people.” A union without a sense of the collective “we” will not last. It is impossible. In fact, so much of history could be seen as the stories of “me and us” fighting against the world.
The U.S. is suffering from an absence of “we” in the heart, in our thinking, and in our actions. The more perfect union the founding generation proposed was freedom within limits — always within limits.
My freedoms are always held in tension with “others.” Limitless, unbounded freedom of individuals to do whatever they please is not what the Constitution – or any other social compact or contract, formal or informal – has ever offered because it is untenable.
To the extent that the U.S. works, it is because it holds in tension the rights of one against the rights of all, the freedoms of one in tension with the freedoms of all.
However, in these reckoning times, we must say that, historically, this nation has elevated and protected the rights of some while diminishing the rights of others. The price of diminishing some while enriching others has brought a social debt which must be paid.
So, on the streets of America we hear the raised voices of both the protected privileged and the unprivileged and under-protected.
The angriest voices seem to be from the protected privileged who are loudly and, at times, forcibly pushing back against those who are not white and who have long lagged in privilege in America.
And that is why we need to go back to remedial citizenship 101.
If you don’t want to live out your solitary life on an island free to finally do as you please, then you must learn how to live with others, share with others, respect others and see a larger world than “me, myself and I.”
Essentially, you must learn to be a part of “we the people.” This necessitates the acceptance of limitations on individual freedoms to promote and protect the common good as we work together “to form a more perfect union.”
One could also say that in matters of the pandemic, a significant minority of Americans have had an allergic reaction to being a part of the solution instead of the problem. Apparently, being a part of the solution is an infringement on their personal freedoms.
This selfishness and privilege are empowered by a significant number of people who self-identify as Christians.
Simply, there are a lot of folks covering up a proud and arrogant heart under the guise of freedom. This is the very antithesis of “we the people” and, for Christians, the antithesis of our sacred texts.
A private practice counselor working with veterans and survivors of trauma. Previously, Chancellor served four churches in Texas for 33 years, then ran a Mental Health Department of Alan B. Polunsky Maximum Security prison which houses death row.