By Haddon Libby
Independence Day is a celebration of the liberation of the United States of America from the oppressive rule of Great Britain. With this as the backdrop, why is it that some Americans work so hard at having their freedoms protected yet also work tirelessly at suppressing the rights and freedoms of other peaceful Americans?
There were two Supreme Court rulings last week that dealt directly with competing views of America – the validity of the Affordable Care Act and same-sex marriage. The Supreme Court ruled in favor of laws that allow for health care subsidies for the less fortunate and financially challenged. The Supreme Court also eliminated laws that prevent same-sex couples from marrying.
The Affordable Care Act is nothing more than the extension of Medicare to people who cannot afford health care without government assistance. In the wealthiest country in the world, is it not fair to assume that health care is a basic right regardless of a person’s income or age?
Similarly, why should any two people of legal age be prevented from expressing their love toward each other through a contract of matrimony?
Some religious folks will say that same-sex marriage runs afoul of their beliefs. Those same people should remember that many of America’s first settlers came here so that they could worship in the way that they felt was right. Those settlers were persecuted and often killed in their homelands for their unique views of God. By coming to America, they could live in a land of tolerance toward people of all beliefs.
One cannot live in a society that allows for religious freedom and tolerance and expect that this same society will limit individual freedoms. How can someone expect full control over their own decisions, choices and beliefs and not expect that others will want the same?
As an example, a court ruling in 1967 confirmed that interracial marriage was legal. Previously, people of different races could be imprisoned for simply marrying. Back then, many electeds felt that each state should determine whether interracial marriage was legal – a fact seemingly lost on Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, an African-American man who is married to a Caucasian woman.
And let’s not forget the right to vote. Women gained the right to vote in 1920. Non-property owning men gained the right to vote in 1865, while African Americans had to wait another 100 years to 1965. Many people in control at each of these historic milestones wanted their own personal freedoms but also wanted to control the rights of others to do the same.
Author James Redfield of The Celestine Prophecy has suggested that people who try to control the actions and beliefs of others suffer from a form of neurosis based on childhood feelings of powerlessness.
When we hear that many people feel that same-sex marriage or basic health care rights are decisions that each state needs to make, we can harken back to past situations. People felt the same way toward interracial marriage and voting rights and slavery and child labor and a litany of other equal rights struggles that Americans have fought so hard for.
America is about the freedom to pray for the God that you believe in…or no God whatsoever. It is about marrying the person whom you hope to spend the rest of your life with. America is also about providing a basic safety net to our elderly and those in no position to take care of themselves.
America is about the ideal that all men are created equal. Any person or group of people who tries to limit another person’s freedom means that those people are not really for freedom but some totalitarian or authoritarian ideal.
And that is not very American.
On this most American of all holiday weekends, honor and celebrate those who have fought for the freedoms that most take for granted.
Haddon Libby is Managing Partner of Winslow Drake, an investment advisory practice and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.