Friday, September 16, 2016 10:04 PM
When one group fights against another, someone wins and someone loses. We see this in the trouble-spots of the world—two sides which will fight until one or the other of them wins—beyond reason, beyond humanity, the absolutism of one group against another seems basic enough to overcome civility.
I’ve been thinking today of our strength as a nation—the melting pot that makes any one group a part of the larger whole—whether they like it or not. Immigrants to the United States know that the rules are different here—feuds from the old country don’t count here; authoritarian prerogatives once enjoyed by men over women, or one class over another—in their homeland—are forever null and void, here in the land of the free.
America has never fought for conquest or territory—only for the Right as we saw it (and a few mistakes, undeniably). And indeed, who could we attack? Where is there a country that isn’t already a part of ourselves? Reel off the role of the United Nations’ 193 countries—not a one of them fails to be represented by a segment of our population. Even those whose governments are seen as ‘bad actors’—their people, too, are a part of who we are—the Russians, the Chinese, the North Koreans, the Iranians, the Libyans, the Syrians—you name the place, and chances are high that the United States contains the largest number of any country’s population, outside of that country.
So, as we recognize that inclusion must be part of our domestic social policies, we also recognize that all nations are siblings—and that our nation is the glaring proof of that truth. We attract immigrants for many reasons—but I believe that most come here because, in the USA, you own yourself. Nobody tells us what to do. Nobody says we have to ask permission to try a new idea. We say whatever we want, and if you don’t like it, you say whatever you want back.
We take personal freedom very seriously here in America—sometimes, some of us even get a little crazy, pushing the bounds of propriety and safety merely to demonstrate the fullness of our liberty. In its own way, it’s pretty rough and tumble. But the acme of the ideal is not merely to have freedom—it is to accord it to everyone else, even when you don’t like it—even when it gets in your way.
And we certainly see abuse of the concept—many people are only too glad to take freedom, and less enthusiastic about giving it to others. Liberty isn’t always obvious—it doesn’t shout, it waits for you to notice it. Some people willfully turn away, and use ‘Liberty’ cynically, hypocritically, as a cudgel attempting to carve out their freedoms at the expense of others’ rights. But they will run out of hot air before America runs out of people who treasure its ideals.
In the end, our immigrant heritage not only strengthens us as a nation, it bonds us to all nations—not as a competitor, not as a threat—but as a family of humanity, all collected together in the great experiment of America. While our capitalists and generals may sometimes lose their perspective, and get lost in the struggle for power, remember this—all most of us want is to share our freedom with the rest of the world. We don’t want other countries to belong to us, we just don’t want to hog all the good stuff for ourselves—it’s no fun to be happy if you can’t share it with everyone else.