Distorting Freedom and Liberty

October 11, 2011

This week, there has been a lot of discussion about Mitt Romney’s religious background (i.e., Mormon) and how this will factor in to his Presidential run. It should make no difference whatsoever. However, it is likely to be a very significant consideration to Republican primary voters.

We are also hearing a great deal about the Occupy Wall Street protests that are ongoing around the country. Some have judged these individuals quite harshly and have even gone so far as to claim they are anti-American.

The Foundation of Our Nation

Our nation was founded on the principles of freedom and liberty. The ideals of the founders were inspiring. However, it is a shame that we often fail to live up to them.

Some of those who speak the loudest about freedom and liberty want exactly the opposite. They demonize or reject those who do not conform to their standards. Anyone who is “different” is automatically suspect if not rejected entirely.

The message seems to be that you have the freedom to conform to the recommended standards of some conservatives (i.e., white, upper middle-class or beyond, homeowner, employed full-time, heterosexual, adherent to traditional gender roles, Christian, church-going, parents (when married and old enough – 20 something), compliant with the position you are given in the social structure, and willing to conform to the direction of leaders). When you deviate from these standards, your worth or quality as an individual is immediately questioned.

Freedom of Religion?

It is ironic that those who came to America during the colonial period were trying to escape the religious persecution they experienced in England but religious preference plays such a huge role in our politics. Supposedly freedom of religion was a founding ideal. And, yes, you are free to choose your religion. You are also free to endure the consequences if you make a culturally unpopular choice.

In recent years, there was much discussion about the possibility that President Obama might be Muslim even though he attended church and indicated he was Christian. However, the reason the question was being posed is extremely disappointing. It was not a simple curiosity about religious preference but rather an attempt to saddle the President with stereotypes about Muslims that developed after 9/11. Equating the terrorists with all Muslims is just like saying all Christians behave like those from Fred Phelps’ Topeka church. It is ridiculous.

If the President were Muslim, our reaction should be – “so what”. Any other reaction on our part signifies biases or prejudices we have about world religions and shows our shortcomings in living up to our founding ideals.

The Mormon Controversy

The discussion about Mitt Romney being a Mormon is sweeping the political news. Commentators are dissecting responses from the other candidates about his religious preference. One Rick Perry supporter, Rev. Robert Jeffress, indicated that the Mormon faith is a cult and that Republican primary voters should choose a true Christian conservative (i.e., Rick Perry).

I am not a Mitt Romney fan. I don’t agree with his current policy positions and I think he is highly disingenuous having changed his issue positions many times to suit the current political climate. However, his religion has never been a consideration for me and it shouldn’t be a consideration for anyone.

Protesting Greed

I think the Occupy Wall Street protests are serving as an important reminder to all Americans. It was greedy financiers operating without regulation that created the financial crisis that trashed our economy. We need to remember how we ended up in our current economic situation.

It is abundantly clear that those who would refer to protesters as anti-American either do not understand or truly believe in freedom and liberty. There is no asterisk after the 1st amendment indicating that free speech will be limited to certain endorsed sentiments.

It is sickening to hear prominent individuals claim that those expressing their concerns or opinions are anti-American. These statements make it clear that they do not truly believe in freedom or liberty and their definition of American is limited to their own narrow set of views. Anyone who has a different view is automatically deemed anti-American.

The Freedom to Know Your Place and Conform

The message in all of the actions above is clear – conform or suffer the consequences. You have the freedom to sit down, shut up, and speak only if spoken to according to these self-anointed standard setters.

Those who would judge and limit the opportunities of others based on bias and prejudice and would label those with differing views as anti-American, have lost touch with the founding principles of our country. If these individuals want to see someone who is truly anti-American, they need look no further than the mirror.