“False patriots say that liberty means being let alone. True patriots know that liberty is not just the removal of tyranny or encumbrances; it is the cultivation of freedom worth having and this requires common endeavor and shared sacrifice.” — Eric Lin and Nick Hanauer, “The True Patriot.”
Seems these days, more than Independence Day, we need Togetherness Day. This came to mind after reading a letter to the editor in this newspaper from which I quote: “May we, as a free people, be allowed to use the fruits of our honest labor to care for ourselves, our family and loved ones as we see fit? May we be permitted to retain as much of our income as possible so that we can protect the freedom that our fallen heroes died protecting?”
I know, I know! July 4 is Independence Day — a very significant day in U.S. history. But in this day and age, when you think of independence related to the United States, it seems that many have defined the word to suit themselves. Far be it that taxes be raised on the wealthy so that everyone can enjoy “liberty and justice for all.” Too many have the narcissistic attitude: “I’ve got mine and to hell with anyone else.”
We realize how much things have changed in this country if we read Robert Reich’s column, “The perils of America’s hard-charging capitalism,” in the June 1 Chronicle. “The first three decades after World War II, when tax rates on top incomes in the United States never fell below 70 percent, a larger portion of our economy was invested in education than ever before or since, over a third of our private-sector workers were unionized, we came up with Medicare for the elderly and Medicaid for the poor, and built the biggest infrastructure project in history, known as the interstate highway system. ... But then came America’s big U-turn, when we deregulated, deunionized, lowered taxes on the top earners, ended welfare and stopped investing as much of the economy in education and infrastructure.”
We can turn things around by spending more time together and interacting with each other — in the home, in the community, in our national dialogue and especially working for a good cause. We need to figure out ways to slow down and give more thought and time to our relationships, our future and the political climate instead of being so focused on material accumulation. We need to promote values like generosity that will bring us together instead of promoting greed and envy and partisanship. We must include those who may, through no fault of their own, have had a rough journey through life.
Unless those who are so absorbed in themselves develop some empathy for others, the kind of changes needed will not occur in government and/or corporate boardrooms to prevent our country from becoming a full-fledged plutocracy. People need to get their noses out of their smartphones, Facebook, etc. and follow pertinent current events by reading the newspaper, checking out TV news and political analysis shows like Bill Moyers where, on June 7, they could have seen Joseph Stiglitz, a professor at Columbia University, who reminded us of the following: “The top 1 percent are willing to take, but not to give.” “An economic system that only benefits those at the top is a failed economic system.” “Americans have not yet grasped the reality of where we are. Our economic system isn’t working.”
It would help to read Elizabeth Warren’s new book, “A Fighting Chance.” I was amazed by her doggedness, her desire, her fight to become a senator from Massachusetts to try to bring about changes needed in government policies. She writes: “We built this country by striking out on new adventures and propelling ourselves forward on a path that we named progress. Along the way, we learned that when we invest in one another, when we build schools and roads and research labs, we built a better future — a better future for ourselves and our children and our grandchildren. ... All we want is a country where everyone pays a fair share, a country where we build opportunities for all of us, a country where everyone plays by the same rules and everyone is held accountable.”
And finally, I must recall Erich Fromm, who wrote in “Escape from Freedom”: “Only if man masters society and subordinates the economic to the purposes of human happiness, and only if he actively participates in the social process, can he overcome what now drives him into despair — his aloneness and his feeling of powerlessness.” We need a Togetherness Day, or week, or month.
Since 1984, Dorothy Dimitre has written more than 750 columns for various local newspapers. Her email address is firstname.lastname@example.org.