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The Privilege and Responsibility of Being an American April 21, 2018

Posted by Peter Varhol in Uncategorized.
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Today, I feel the need to define what I believe in.

There, I said it.  There are few things I believe in more than these two ideals.  Let me explain.

The privilege.  We have defined rights, granted at birth and irrevocable.  These rights are defined as human beings, and codified to a limited extent in our Declaration of Independence and Constitution.  Incidentally, these documents are precious though imperfect, as are their authors.  As are all of us.

I disagree with many people, on many ideals and implementations.  I vigorously defend their right to have different ideals and expectations, as long as their differences do not impede on mine.  That is a gray area, of course.  As long as you have privileges on the same level as me, you are welcome to your ideals.  We don’t force them on each other.

Our privilege is to speak freely.  And act freely.  As long as those words and actions don’t impinge upon the rights of others.  Every single American knows best.  The problem is that our best is only the best for us as individuals, not all of us.  We freely acknowledge that our beliefs may not be universal, or even widely held.  And we are okay with that.

The responsibility.  I have the responsibility to defend the rights and freedoms I have.  I know that millions of Americans have died in doing so.  I wish more Americans would consider service to their country at some point in time, because it can teach all of us something, but my wishes don’t make it mandatory.

We have the responsibility to defend the rights and freedoms of all others.  Not just those we agree with.  As long as those rights and freedoms don’t impinge on those of others.  Once again, that is a gray area.  I served so that all could have these rights.  I wish you would too, but I can’t force that, and don’t want to.

We have the responsibility to treat people with respect, even as we disagree with them.  Let me repeat that.  We have the responsibility to treat people with respect, even as we disagree with them.  We may find common ground, and we will almost certainly find that we agree more than disagree.

We have laws.  The rule of law is vital in any society.  These laws are imperfect, and have evolved over time, hopefully to enable all of us to execute our privileges.  We have the responsibility to help uphold those laws.  Some laws require adjustment over time, and we can work toward adjusting them, as we continue to abide by them.

And I allow for much good in other nations and cultures.  I have seen some of that good, and hope to see more before I leave the mortal plane.  Public transportation is better in other places.  Health care may be better, and is certainly less expensive, in other places.  Taxes may be more fair elsewhere.  The sense of history, the depth of culture, and the kindness of ordinary people everywhere is amazing.

But that by no means denigrates what we as Americans have.  We have created an amazing and unique nation and society.  I don’t want to throw it away.  I really don’t want to throw it away.

Today, I think we as Americans have to put a stake in the ground for what we stand for.  This is what I stand for.  I hope we can meet somewhere.

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