The Responsibility of Freedom

Eons ago, when I first got my driving license and started out in my little blue Chevy Nova, eager to exercise this new found freedom to navigate the wide world all on my own, my parents sat me down for a little talk on responsibility.

“Freedom to come and go as you please is  exciting,” they granted, “but with this newfound freedom of yours comes a responsibility – and not just the responsibility of driving safely and carefully.   Part of your responsibility, now that you’re able to be going places and doing things on your own, is being aware of your family’s feelings and keeping us informed about your plans and your whereabouts.  It’s not that we’re trying to control you, or prevent you from doing things you might want to to.  It’s just that we care about you being safe, and we also need to know how your activities impact the rest of the family.  Don’t keep us waiting dinner for you if you’re planning on eating out with your friends.  Call first and let us know.  If you’re running late, call and let us know.  It’s simple courtesy.  Being mindful of other’s feelings is one of the most important responsibilities that come with freedom.”

Lately, with all the debate about building a mosque near Ground Zero, I’ve been recalling that discussion.  I consider myself a proponent of religious freedom, and believe with all my heart that people living peaceably here in America should be allowed to freely practice their faith, whatever it might be.  It might sound overly simplified, but it seems to me that the whole concept of building a mosque in that particular place has a lot to do with the idea my parents were talking to me about lo those many years ago.

“Being mindful of other’s feelings is one of the most important responsibilities that come with freedom.”

So many people have such strong feelings about Ground Zero, feelings that it is a sacred place, that it’s a reminder of a terrible wrong wreaked upon our nation and on totally innocent individuals.  It seems as if building a mosque anywhere near there, especially one as large as the one being proposed, is a bit like rubbing salt into that wound.  Are there not other suitable locations in New York City?  Why must this particular building be constructed in this particular place?

The situation is obviously very complicated, and I’m sure my homespun philosophy is hardly the answer to what has become a huge dilemma.  Still, perhaps it’s a concept worth pondering.  Sometimes consideration and compromise can go a long way toward making peace.

And that’s definitely a concept worth working for.

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2 thoughts on “The Responsibility of Freedom

  1. Your post brings to mind the controversy here in South Carolina, about the Confederate Flag which flew on top of our State House since the ’60s. I was a reporter when they finally lowered the flag and moved it to a monument, and it was a bit scary to be standing there in the midst of the emotion and energy when the flag was lowered. I was on the side of “take it down” for the reasons you mentioned in this post.

  2. I spent years working in and around hopsitals as a medical social worker and in other capacities. Butting heads with medical staff now and then, I finally came to this realization: just because we can do something doesn’t mean we should do something.

    It’s a lesson that applies across life. It’s clearly related to the lesson your parents taught. Another way to say it is, “Just because something is legal, doesn’t mean it’s right”.

    The building of the mosque isn’t a First Amendment issue, that much is clear. No one is being denied a right to worship. But whether proceeding with the project is well or ill-advised remains very much an open question. At minimum, those associated with St. Nicholas Greek Orthodox church destroyed at Ground Zero are wondering why they have been denied a re-building permit while the mosque proceeds.

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