This Fourth of July I’ve been thinking of Norman Rockwell’s four freedom paintings. The freedom of speech, freedom of worship, freedom from want and freedom from fear. Most Americans don’t realize these freedoms were first elucidated by President Franklin Roosevelt in his 1941 state of the Union speech to congress the January before the bombing of Pear Harbor to try to convince Americans of the severity of the war in Europe. These four freedoms were also used as the cornerstone ideas for the foundation of the United Nations.
We have seen in the last few months some of these freedoms being granted to a great many of our citizens but also being denied to others. The recent Supreme Court rulings on gay marriage and the upholding of the national health care plan are evidence of this. On the same hand we have seen the Donald Trump campaign for President implode on itself over his hateful speech about Mexican immigrants and the church shooting in Charleston along with the burning of 25 churches in the south over the last few months,
Where are we as a nation on this 4th of July? In many ways we are in the same place we were 74 years ago when FDR gave his famous 4 freedoms speech. We have a society that ebbs and flows in the granting of freedom to its citizens. Let’s not forget the hypocrisy present in the President speaking of four freedoms while at the same time ordering the internment of 127,000 Japanese Americans during World War II the next year. In other ways I do feel as though America is becoming more accepting, open to the needs and wants of others. Willing to give people the four freedoms with the benefit of the doubt; More liberal.
If you look at the outcry over the confederate flag, shootings of unarmed african american men, gay marriage, health care for all, Donald Trumps vitriolic speech, and the support of a higher living wage. America is making inroads into a more liberal future. What worries me is what kind of backlash there will be after the granting of these liberal rights and freedoms. One of the most conservative periods the 1980’s came after the most liberal the 1960’s. We have to find an equilibrium point in this country where people accept other people’s rights to do what they want as long as it is not hurting anyone else. We have the right to free speech, but not the right to be hurtful or hateful. It is the same thing we teach our children. The idea of living and let living needs to become a part of our American lexicon much like the 4 freedoms has. On this 4th of July, let’s all ask ourselves, before we say it or do it, who will it help or hurt?