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Freedom? What's that?

A source of concern for many Americans these days in the wake of our recent July 4th Independence Day is the furor and passion with which Party politics has been conducted of late. Emotions and tensions are running higher than I’ve ever seen them before, and I was around for the 1960’s. Conflict was extreme then. But things seems even worse today.

For me in the years between then and now, a profound memory of conflict is found in the countless hours I worked professionally in marital counseling, listening to the painful arguments between couples who were at wits end with each other. There the challenge would often be to reframe the problem into one that was actually solvable. Solutions in search of the wrong problem all along lend themselves to, well, failure to solve anything. Applies to marriages. Applies to nations. Wherever people unite, there is potential for disunity and furor and passion and unresolved conflicts.

And pain.

I won’t pretend to have a simple handle on America’s pain today, or on our furor and passion. But I do have to wonder if maybe it isn’t at least somewhat related to how we all define the term, “freedom.”

How do you define it?

What does freedom mean to you?

If I’m accurately hearing those who wave their flags most proudly these days, I hear folks on the right defending a very different freedom than those on the left are defending. Both are ardent in their defenses. Both are adamant that we remain free as a nation. Yet, the average Democrat might have in mind our institutions of “free election” while the average Republican has in mind our institutions of “free enterprise.” Said differently, our Democrats who defend our flag are thinking of our democracy. Our Republicans doing so are thinking of our capitalism. Same flag. Same defensiveness. But very different freedoms.

The uniting of states may well come about if we can figure out how to unite our freedoms and achieve something called “democratic capitalism,” a free enterprise system that is accountable to the majority of all Americans, whether privileged or marginalized in background and circumstance. Or protects the rights of our “others” (those Christ called “neighbor”) as equal to our “own.” Or calls forth both the same individual as well as social responsibilities on everyone’s part. But the tricky part, if you ask me, will be coming to terms with the term itself.


What does it mean? Can we work together to defend the same thing? And if we’re not now defending both free and fair elections AND free enterprise, then can we at least agree to try doing both as an experiment to see what might happen?

Old marriage counselors don’t always succeed, but they never die. They just keep looking for problems that actually are solvable for a change. And trying to offer hope for a better future than present relationship.

Something tells me we Americans can do a better job of uniting to defend our "different" freedoms.

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