Freedom means a lot of things to a lot of people. One thing I’m grateful for is that we live in a time and place where we’re as free as we are. We’re free to take that freedom for granted. We’re free to poke it with a stick and see what it is, what it’s made of, how it works, how to use it. We’re free to think and believe how we will.
We’re free to agree and disagree every step of the way, and boy howdy do we. It’s a human trait I think we as Americans are especially passionate about. Some do it better than others, sure, and some do it more enjoyably than others (can’t argue taste, right?), but I think it’s safe to say most of us enjoy talking smack. And just when you think you don’t, that’s when you’ll post a meme talking smack about all the smacktalkers and the world goes round its merry way.
We’re free to support the union of the states. We’re free to support the states of the union. People do both and think they’re supporting the good of America.
So I’m looking forward to a new American year where I keep poking and digging, because I’m free to and that’s how I use my freedom. I’ve pretty well got cynicism down pat (follow the money). Skepticism I’m pretty good at, getting better. Critical thinking needs work. I think I’m getting better at impartiality, if slowly. I like to think I’m just partial to good ideas, but some days it seems they come more from here or more from there. Overall it balances out, but day to day I must look flaky as all hell.
The thing I think I need to work on next is empathy. I keep reminding myself that nobody wakes up thinking, “I’m going to believe something stupid today.” As a result, I’m getting to the point where I’m less interested in what people believe. There are 7-ish billion people in the world, only 320 million that matter 😉 And of that 320 million people, we can’t agree on what makes a good TV show or which fashions look stupid. Of course we’re not going to agree on anything much more complicated than that. That people believe a thing might make for an interesting (or even dismaying) fact.
To me, the more interesting question is why people believe what they believe. Since I’m not psychic, I’ll probably never get especially good at understanding why other people think what they do. They think what they do for what they think are perfectly good reasons. But I can certainly look at what I think I believe and ask myself why I believe those things. That’s my right. It’s also a slow process.
Meanwhile, life goes on. The election cycle waits for no person. There will be candidates here, candidates there, candidates everywhere from sea to shining sea for every office in the land, all of them trying to sell us ideas. I think a great many of us have come to the realization that most of those candidates won’t ever actually bother making good on those ideas once they’re in office, except maybe at the local level. It’s the ideas they’re selling that are important.
Thank goodness for the freedom to have those ideas, to have that many different ideas, to have that many people taking a stand on all those different ideas. That’s freedom, in a nutshell. The day when we have to wonder why everybody agrees about something might be the day we have to wonder what happened to that freedom. Until that day comes, we’ll all keep jostling at the polls to boost our preferred ideas to those who call the shots. It remains a numbers game, rigged or otherwise.
It’s hard to make the other team’s numbers go down.
So the best method, as far as I can tell, is to boost one’s own numbers by advancing the best ideas for the best reasons in the best way that reaches the most people. This is our freedom, our right. My challenge to myself in this coming year is to work on that strategy. I need to ask myself if the way I’m pitching an idea is effective. Does it stand a chance of adding another tally mark in the correct column? Or did I just cause a tally mark to appear in the wrong column as a repudiation of how I pitched my idea?
This is a tremendous liberty I have, and a tremendous responsibility. If that’s how I choose to exercise my freedom, then I owe it to myself and to whatever cause I espouse to use it responsibly and wisely.