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Just how free are we?

By Walter Geiger ’The more prohibitions you have, the less virtuous people will be. The more weapons you have, the less secure people will be. The more subsidies you have, the less selfreliant people will be. Therefore the Master says: I let go of the law, and people become honest. I let go of econom-ics, and people become prosperous. I let go of religion, and people become serene. I let go of all desire for the common good, and the good becomes common as grass.’ - The Tao Te Ching, Lao Tzu As we celebrate Independence Day it pays to reflect on just how independent we really are. We remain free of the tyranny of British rule which our forefathers shook off some 240 years ago and which we celebrate this week but just how many more freedoms could we enjoy if we were better governed? Various people, Thoreau, Thomas Jefferson, etc., are credited with saying ‘˜He who governs best, governs least’. Perhaps they studied the works of Lao Tzu who lived 2600 years ago. Perhaps not. Though, as Americans, we are all united under one national identity, we are more fractured as a society now than we were in the days just prior to the Civil War. Though numbers are hard to verify, that conflict killed at least 620,000 Americans who had previously lived peacefully under the same government. Many of the generals who led the opposing armies at the dawn of that bitter war were classmates at West Point. A large percentage were Masonic brothers. They knew each other and each other’s families yet they led soldiers to their deaths and some died themselves because they identified strongly with their compatriots on their side of the fractures of time – primarily states’ rights and slavery. Those in power at the time failed to keep the United States united and the human cost was vast and terrifying. Now, 150 years later, bad blood from that war still bubbles just below the surface. Today, our fractures are smaller but more numerous. We are divided by ethnicity, religion, political affiliation and, often, country of origin and resultant immigration status. Smaller gulfs include those delineated by the level of our willingness to work and provide for our families, our level of dependence on government for survival and what we feel we are owed and by whom. This results in classification terminology using code words like liberal, conservative, libertarian, white privilege, welfare queen, micro aggression, etc. Some feel they need a safe space to protect ‘˜them’ from the rest of ‘˜us’ and on and on ad nauseum. The grievance industry is growing faster than any other. There is no shortage of individuals out there who thrive on promoting and growing these fractures and, sadly, the news media is a big part of this. The vast majority of those in the national media – print, broadcast and electronic – are no longer content to report the news. They feel as if they have to shape the narrative and thus sway others to adopt their opinions. They take to Twitter over the slightest perceived slight and hope their ‘˜followers’ will follow suit. This is divisive and dangerous. It will change only when you opt out and base your opinions solely on your own thoughts, gut feelings and perceptions. Think for yourself! At the heart of all these problems is the fact that the largest chasm separating us is that between those who govern and those whom they govern. The highest priority for many of those in government at all levels is to preserve and protect their own position in government and the resultant perks. These are people with big egos and nothing feeds ego like power over others. This is true regardless of political party. Political parties are not about better government. They exist solely for self promotion, ideological indoctrination and power preservation. Sure we need to better vet those entering this country to weed out terrorists but extreme vetting is needed for those we elect to public office. We should pay them less and curtail the amount of time they can stay in any one office. Fresh blood, fresh ideas and selfless leadership have never been more essential. Without them, more chasms will appear, those we have will grow, these United States will grow even less united and our vaunted independence will become a thing of the distant past. Walter Geiger is editor and publisher of The Herald Gazette and Pike County Journal Reporter.

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