Mom and dad were smart enough to know that at some point, external government wasn't enough. I think it was probably the 110th spanking when I wouldn't stay in my bed one night and ended up falling asleep in my bedroom closet in total defiance that really drove that home for them. So, to their credit, they pushed us from a young age to put on self-government. To make choices not based on what we could get away with, but what would bring the benefit we sought, whether that was "bringing glory to the lord", making and keeping friends, or not getting caught watching soap operas in the middle of the day when mom went out to coffee with her friends. Self government is something that I have tried to teach my own kids, with wildly varying results, but who are ultimately turning out to be reasonably well adjusted adultish type people. OK, so nobody is in jail or pregnant. It's a lot of win right there. Self government, y'all.
In light of recent socio-political events, the principle of self-government again and again seems to be the stress fracture where our world is breaking apart. School shootings, gang shootings, police shootings, protests, demonstrations, deleting emails and deporting immigrants... we live in a culture of doing things because we CAN. We CAN riot in our own neighborhoods in protest because freedom of expression, right? We CAN shoot people that we hate. We CAN say things without repercussion. We CAN get away with murder, sometimes literally, because nobody taught us that the actions we choose are bigger than the consequences that we might avoid.
There are more things out there on both sides of the fence that I disagree with than things that I really support, when it comes right down to it. I think people are crazy, liberal and conservative, religious and secular, gay, straight, rich, poor, black, white and everything in between. Bat. Guano. Crazy. The things that we will do to each other and ourselves, the liberties that we take (because we CAN), the actions that we justify, have gotten out of control. But the beautiful thing about where we live is exactly that: WE CAN.
We have this thing called the Bill of Rights that defines the liberty that this nation was founded on, and it promises us that we CAN do things. We CAN choose our own religion, or none at all. We CAN express how we feel. We CAN defend ourselves, need be. We CAN have privacy in our own homes... and on it goes. And no matter how much it angers me to see celebrities disrespect our national anthem - that flag and that song are the exact reason that those athletes CAN do that. People have fought and died so that Colin Kaepernick can have the right to express whatever opinion he wants to. People have fought and died so that Muslims can worship freely in this country. People have fought and died so that I can legally own as many cool guns as I want to. People have fought and died so that we don't have to live with an oppressive external government telling us who we can marry, which bathroom we can use, what we can eat, how we must live. I don't have to agree with Colin Kaepernick, Donald Trump, Hilary Clinton, Black Lives Matter or any other American, but we all get the same privilege of making our voices heard.
All of this CAN is powerful. And with great power comes great responsibility. Just as I don't take lightly the privilege AND responsibility of owning guns legally, neither should any freedom of expression be abused to harm and destroy communities, or exact some twisted form of vigilante justice through rioting, federal building takeovers or the murder of Peace Officers. Because we live in the Greatest Nation (without the help of a showboating political-celebrity hybrid) we have the ability and the charge of making the right choices in our actions to bring the benefit we seek: stronger communities, healthier families, safer schools and neighborhoods and a better world all the way around.
There are so many great things that we CAN do here, and so many terrible things as well. The culture of this country is entirely reliant upon the self government of its people. The choices we make as individuals define who we are as a nation, whether we are breaking out the windows of a 7-11 or candy striping at the VA Hospital, it's up to us. Whether we take a knee during the National Anthem or stand in the rain to memorialize a fallen hero, it's up to us. So while I won't defend Kaepernick, I will stand up for his right to express himself, and I will offer a nod of thanks to every Veteran and active duty Service Member throughout history that has guaranteed that right for him and for me.
What CAN you do? Or more importantly, what WILL you do with the liberties that you have? Voting this November is probably a good place to start...
THE BILL OF RIGHTS
(In case you can't read the picture)