I like the band Five for Fighting and especially their song “Superman.” Superman is one of those superheroes that is very patriotic. Superman’s mission, in his words, is to fight for “Truth, Justice, and the American way,” but what exactly is the American way? Is it one way or many ways? Are we a melting pot of peoples, ideas, and values or are we a salad bowl that seeks to promote the separation of the tomatoes, onions, cucumbers, and lettuce? In other words, do we value commonality over individuality, or what?
Sure there are some things that will likely be common fare this coming Fourth of July weekend: vacationing, bar-b-ques, and fireworks. I, for one, don’t feel like I’ve had a proper Fourth unless we watch the Boston Pops on the Esplanade beside the Charles River via PBS. What do you do for the Fourth? Are you into group stuff or doing your own thing? That is a metaphor for my assessment of our society right now.
I am worried that we have taken the “pursuit of happiness” and expanded it to a selfishness that appalls the rest of the world and our own common sense. But that is actually the problem, isn’t it? Do we have COMMON sense in our ultra-personalized country? I remember when all the Moms and Dads had a set curfew for all their kids and everybody just “knew” what the rules and boundaries were. Now it’s anything goes.
Sure everybody is unique and different, but aren’t there some best practices that would benefit everyone? Everyone wants freedom, but freedom without a higher purpose than personal or national gain is enslavement to our own agendas. Just look at our national debates about recent court decisions, or the lack of bi-partisan cooperation for evidence of misused freedom. Freedom without regard for the common good is terrible for everyone.
No matter how one stands on the issues, should we promote individual rights over what is best for all? Should personal standards of right and wrong trump what has been decided is best for society as a whole? I am concerned that courts have overturned state legislatures’ actions and voter referendums on definitions and laws on many subjects. These decisions have largely been based upon the “equal protection clause” of the US Constitution. The “equal protection clause” is part of the Fourteenth Amendment which took effect in 1868. It provided that no state shall deny to any person within its jurisdiction “the equal protection of the laws.”
This amendment has been very helpful in our common desire to protect persons from racial or gender discrimination, but it has been a lightning rod for other court cases. Those cases have thrilled very disparate groups. Many on the Left celebrate the “equal protection clause’s” use in same-sex marriage cases, and many on the Right are happy with its use in the Hobby Lobby ruling. However, regardless of your political, theological, or personal notions about such issues, the question in my mind is the logical conclusion of the enforcement of the “equal protection clause.” If we all get to decide what’s negotiable or non-negotiable then anarchy prevails and no one is protected. In other words if we’re not careful equal protection means no protection.
Therefore, this Fourth of July my prayer is that we stridently avoid the promotion of individual freedom over and above our shared liberty. I don’t have as many answers as I do questions about the courts and the issues, but I’m hoping that whatever we do we will work for what’s best for everyone! I don’t want to see our freedom devolve into a free-for-all individualism.
We are better than that if we truly believe in our motto of E Pluribus Unum, “Out of Many, One.” I’m wondering how to we get back to the idea of one over many? How do we value diversity while promoting a democratically decided unity? I feel the need to safeguard our society’s boundaries of decorum, morality, and civility rather than let anybody and everybody decide what floats their boat. A baseball diamond without foul lines isn’t baseball. What’s fair and what’s foul, and who decides? These are questions that we must answer in order to fight for truth, justice, and the American way. God bless America and save us from our freedom!