In my last My America installment, Annette wrote this in the comments:
I take care of me and mine, so I won't be looking to my government to help me. These hands are busy working. I don't have time to hold one out.Amen. The government should not avail itself as a source of assistance in living life, and we shouldn't reach out to it to help us.
And just as people shouldn't reach out to the government to live, we should not allow the government to reach out to us to tell us how to live. That's the focus of this installment: my life is my private life and not the business of the government.
There is a well-known phrase in the Declaration of Independence: "life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness." You knew it before you even finished reading it - that's how well-known it is. Where did that phrase come from? What does it mean?
The phrase is based on the writings of John Locke, who expressed a similar concept of "life, liberty, and estate (or property)".John Locke believed that "that property is a natural right and it is derived from labor." Locke believed that liberty meant the right of individuals to do as they pleased with their own lives and their own property. You work for it; you earn it; it's yours. You get to decide what to do with it.
Some in the government would tell you how to live. They would determine for you what you can do, and what you can't do. Be it the religious zealots who despise homosexuals and what they do in the privacy of their own home, or the environmental zealots, who demand that a person cannot cut down trees on their own property for fear of harming an "endangered" animal. Laws are enacted to tell us how to live. This nanny-ish quest for - and acceptance of - power is in direct opposition to a "Declaration of Independence."
Annette also commented:
I think it was Dennis Leary who said something about Americans' unalienable rights to be assholes. I might not help a neighbor start their car, for no other reason than I just don't want to. I certainly wouldn't want my government telling me I had to do so.And you know what? She's right. What independence do we have when we allow - no, encourage - the government to tell us how to live? We don't.
If a person chooses to be stingy with the property they've earned through their labor, that's their right. And if we choose to look down our noses at such a person, that's our right. We might abhor such behavior according to our own personal morals, but it is not our right to tell others how to live their own lives, spend their own money, or determine how to occupy their own time. The government should not be the convenient vehicle it's become to mandate how others should live.
Liberty, if we truly prize it, means what Locke said it meant: the right of individuals to do as they please with their own lives and their own property.
But don't use the government as a means for dictating lifestyle to others. That's not freedom. That's not liberty.
- If they want to have consensual gay sex, have lots of consensual gay sex.
- If they want to drive by the stranded and not help people out, then drive on by.
- If they want to cut down a tree on their property that harbors a spotted owl, then rev up that chainsaw.
- If they want to despise the way that others live, then despise all you like.
And it's simply not American.