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A few issues back, I wrote a piece I can’t let go of. It was about the pandemic and its impact upon our nation. I had written of two Achilles’ heels in its Constitution — freedom and independence, both sacred to every American.
Covid among us, vaccinations and masks, exposed a “me” mindset claiming individual rights and personal independence. I had written that in the phrase E Pluribus Unum, “‘one’ does not mean ‘me,’ it means ‘we.’ It’s the same with independence and freedom; both are ‘we’ words, requiring both consciousness of and responsibility to others.” I’m still asking myself, “How could anyone miss their meanings?”
With all due respect for its creators, adding two adjectives to our Constitution might have made a difference in the national dynamics of handling the pandemic: Responsible freedom and shared independence. Both god terms clearly become “we” words rather than “me” words.
“Responsible” does not diminish the concept of freedom; if anything, it strengthens it, as well as the meaning of being an American. Nor does it create a “herd-life” mentality. It clearly and simply says that we are all connected.
“Shared” also strengthens our sense of identity as a nation, independent but also aware of our need for one another to protect its fragility. The word challenges each of us to recognize, accept and support individual independence as it contributes to the well-being of our nation.
Think it through. Responsible freedom has to clarify the meanings of the 1st and 2nd Amendments. Shared independence speaks directly against racism and can impact our nation’s policies on civil rights, immigration and poverty.
The pandemic seems to have our country at a crossroad. We have two-and-a-half years of history to learn from, more than a million deaths to mourn, a divided government, a war-supporting, nose-diving economy, and an entire nation wound tight with stress, worn down by relentless violence and viruses. Both our freedom and independence are being sorely tested. All of us need to step up and realize what “united” means — to be responsible to one another, sharing awareness and strength, protecting and striving to maintain the true meaning of America.