Yesterday I could not write my weekly Friday post. There were no words. Instead I somewhat aimlessly scrolled through others’ posts, responding here and there. Today I am doubly challenged by what I have heard: sadness, of course. Prayers and solace for a reeling community. Also questions, blame, despair. And occasional reasoned cadences for change.
I have lost a child to a violent death. I have lived with an unpredictable head-of-household who harbored a gun, holding me hostage to fear. I am part of a family politically divided in the extreme whose love for one another transcends even those irreconcilable differences. I am by training and by temperament a change agent, a conscious feminine leader who strives by living example to hold the ever-growing paradoxes of both . . . and.
AND I am a lifelong adherent to ‘freedom with responsibility.’
Much of what I read yesterday railed at the failures of public education, our mental health system, public policy, politics. It’s not a new concept that what created a problem can not be what ultimately fixes it. That’s because what is needed, at the point of so much brokenness, is a new approach. Old solutions have lost their resonance. As in not currently relevant.
I have neither the ability nor the space here to prescribe a plan for change that will fix everything. But I do have an observation I feel we would all to well to take to heart.
We are in this together. What happened in Newtown could happen, has happened, in Anywhere, USA. There is no blame that doesn’t come round to include us, each and every one. It is our mindset that underlies the essential challenges of communicating and working toward real, viable and sustainable change.
Some of us feel entitled to whatever we want through whatever measures we feel necessary to achieve our goals. In my book, that’s not freedom. That’s license. A shaky distinction, I am shaken to discover in carefully re-reading multiple definitions of both. So let me rephrase my point: freedom requires responsibility to function effectively. It requires a certain level of commitment to the common weal. It cannot take the extreme stance of complete disregard for family, neighbor, community, country. That is one of the things about being human – our ability to think, reason, feel, communicate, connect. We are interdependent.
Working together toward a common goal has become increasingly difficult in the recently polarized political climate; one which was firmly established in the previous eight-year administration with the now-infamous declaration of polarity (‘if you’re not with me, you’re against me’). In fact, it is possible to share different opinions; is even healthy in forging lasting and meaningful change to have differing ideas shaping the path. So let’s not confuse product with process.
We all want freedom – from random violence, from want, for personal expression. Let’s define our common ground so we can respectfully hear each other into the way(s) to get there. We don’t need to move forward in lock-step. We DO need to move forward in mutual respect for one another’s essential humanity.
We need to take responsibility for ourselves and our actions. We need to be responsible citizens and thinkers and feelers and doers. We need to be responsible to our families, our neighbors, our communities. To our shared humanity – not to rhetoric, not to political posturing, not to extremism. We need authentic discourse that can hold difference and move toward solutions that honor our mutual humanity to address our shared needs and challenges.