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Freedom and responsibility

The source and meaning of our nation’s freedom

By Linda K. Taylor | Faculty contributor

Col. Philip Chaffee (USAF-Ret) as he appeared in 1968 serving in Viet Nam. Picture provided by Linda Taylor.

Pictured is my father, Col. Philip Chaffee (USAF-Ret), as he appeared in 1968 serving in Viet Nam.
Photograph provided by Linda K. Taylor.

Today is Veteran’s Day. Today we honor you men and women who are or have been part of our American military, fighting for freedom.

I wish more people understood the sacrifices you’ve made—separation from family, constant moves, facing enemies in combat, PTSD—and doing all of this for pathetic pay. You make these sacrifices because you believe in America.

Thank you.

We have just come out of a very divisive election. Half the country is rejoicing and half the country is depressed. But that’s what voting is all about. Some win; some lose. I have cried my eyes out over a few elections; I’ve sighed with relief at others.

But here’s the bottom line: no election has the power to ruin a free people.

Thank a veteran for that.

But here’s the other part of the bottom line: with freedom comes a huge amount of responsibility. We’re free—but not to hurt one another. Not to make fun of one another. Not to badmouth those who disagree with us. We’re free to express opinions, but we must always do so respectfully, realizing the person across from us who believes differently came to their opinion in a reasoned way, just as we did.

Now is the time to listen to one another.

Has America had some really bad policies? Yes. Have some presidents made some really bad decisions? Yes. Does America have some really big problems to work on? You bet.

But it has always been that way. The best we can do is, when we see a problem, figure out how to fix it.

When the next election comes around (and not just the presidential election—but state, local and town elections), we must get involved, get educated, voice our opinions and vote for the ones who represent us.

And for the rest of our lives, we must understand we’ll win some and we’ll lose some. But we’re still free to stand on our principles and work for change.

Many of the greatest changes that happened in our country have not been the result of top-down decisions from a president; instead, they have been the result of free people voicing their opinions, working for change and voting in the lawmakers who could make the changes happen. In one case in particular, we fought a horrifying war on our own soil because of those differing opinions.

Where did we get the freedom to fight for what we believe? To express our opinions? To rant and rave on our blogs and on Facebook?

Thank a vet for that.

Thank a vet that we are still a free country where we can have vastly different opinions and live together, work together, serve together and worship together.

The best way we can honor our veterans is being worthy of their sacrifices.

Instead of letting our opinions divide us—instead of being angry that there actually are people who think differently than us—why don’t we find ways to make positive change in our personal lives, in our families, in our communities and workplaces and in our world? Why don’t we take a deep breath, listen to one another, learn from one another, understand the very deep feelings on both sides and work together to make whatever needs to be improved better?

We’ve been working on it for 240 years. We have come a long way. We still have a long way to go. We will always have a long way to go. But we won’t get there by refusing to listen to one another or refusing to learn from our own history.

Thank you, veterans, for selflessly serving and preserving this great country. May the rest of us learn from your example.

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