Ruth Gadebusch

Freedom Demands Responsibility

Ruth Gadebush

With so many demands in the name of freedom from those who seemingly interpret freedom as letting them do anything and everything that they choose, it is time to think of just how that attitude works in a society. The Jan. 6, 2021, attempted insurrection of the U.S. government certainly did not benefit anyone.

If it were possible just to allow each and everyone of us to consider only ourselves without consequences we would not need any laws. Fortunately, or unfortunately, for those who believe only they matter, we do need rules and regulations to live together in some peace. After all, the planet is shared territory. In the words of James Madison, “If men were angels, we would not need government.”

It is painfully obvious that all too many believe they should be able to yell and scream their demands without any consideration of the law, much less the concerns of anyone except themselves. It matters not who else or what else is affected. My way 99% doesn’t count; I have my freedom 100%, be it speech or action.

The brilliant concept for this nation hardly expected that attitude to prevail and most assuredly not to the extent the idea is being abused by segments in this nation. There are those who have perfected almost as an art the ability to use our wonderful communication tools to exploit the idea that freedom has no restraint for their followers. We all pay the price as individuals, as a society.

We must find a way to put responsibility back into the picture as the founders of this nation understood it, as thinking people still practice.

That responsibility includes restraint, restraint of our own worst inclinations to put ourselves above all others. Yes, take care of our own needs be they physical or concepts of a functioning society, but let it be one that says my rights stop where yours begin in this shared space. No one, absolutely no one, stands alone, not even in this nation of freedom, a concept not shared in many places on the planet.

Our forefathers—no foremothers or other equally unconsidered groups were allowed or even much thought of in the debate, a story for another time—worked diligently and brilliantly to develop a government that served the needs of humans (at that time property owning men above all) existing in a shared society. They designed a format of representative government that has come as near performing its intended mission as any government existing on the planet.

Yet, instead of striving to carry out that responsibility many humans would destroy it in the guise of being the only ones capable of managing. In reality, all too often a selfish grabbing of power to benefit themselves. In its final form known as dictatorship.

With this attitude, we have reached a day of reckoning. Let us think of the more obvious results when citizens think only of themselves, be it the action of an individual nature or that of the group.

Those who without medical reasoning refuse vaccinations for Covid-19 and masks are not just affecting themselves, their freedom, as they so loudly proclaim, but can expose their fellow/sister humans. Smallpox did not vanish from the world without vaccinations eliminating the entire source of the virus. Nor do I believe my parents ever signed a permission slip for me and my classmates to receive typhoid prevention.

Many other vaccinations we know today were unknown. As each classroom of students lined up, we were grateful that we had a way to protect ourselves and our community. The needles were not nearly as sharp as today! Nor do I know of anyone at a later time less than overjoyed that we could prevent the scourge of polio. The whole society rejoiced in our good fortune.

Wearing a mask does not infringe on one’s freedom. It is little enough for each of us to do to protect all.

We have traffic lights and stop signs. We have speed limits. We have requirements of cleanliness in our preparation of food. We have safety standards in manufactured goods and pay scales for labor, and on and on. All because common sense and human restraint is insufficient to prevent chaos and worse.

We even have the ability to predict what our actions are doing to the future regarding the world’s resources. It isn’t a loss of freedom when we take responsibility to control use of our resources to protect them for the future, like doing what can still be done to mitigate climate change.

We register vehicles and record property deeds. It is protecting, as it would be to register guns even restricting them from some persons thereby possibilities of reducing likely damage when in the wrong hands.

We are belatedly developing standards for respecting our fellow/sister humans in our everyday treatment of them whether it be for education, job availability or property rights. The same service for all, voting rights and the many other encounters of daily life. These are not infringement of freedom but recognition of our responsibility to treat others as we would like to be treated.  

Yes, we have freedom, especially in our nation, but it comes with a price: how we behave with other humans and how we use the resources of the planet. In short: Freedom exists only with responsibility.

  • Ruth Gadebusch, a former naval officer, was recently recognized by the League of Women Voters with its Lipton Award for volunteer work in various community endeavors. She was elected four times to the Fresno Unified School District Board, appointed by Governor George Deukmejian to the California Commission on Teacher Credentialing and is an emeritus member of the Board of the Center for Civic Education.

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