The desire for diversity to be respected is understandable and vital. Identity is not defined by region, race, or religion alone. We are, each of us, defined by our thoughts and our experience. This need not isolate us but it does mean we are each the ultimate minority – a minority-of-one.
“No man is an island entire of itself;…”
John Donne, Devotions upon Emergent Occasions, Meditation XVII (1623)
We require society and we all contribute to it as a state. Until 1956, the unofficial motto of the United States was E pluribus unum (meaning Out of many, one). Diversity was, at least tacitly, understood as a strength for 174 years. In the same breath, so was Unity. We’re having trouble with both these days. It wouldn’t be scientific to claim that the change of motto was the sole cause but it might mark the beginning of a decline that’s lasted 59 years and counting.
The sociopolitical climate of the United States has become too fertile a soil for the notion that liberty means absolute freedom from having to follow the dictates of any authority. A very recent example involves a Texas man who literally jumped to fatal encounter with an alligator. He is reported to have said, “[Expletive deleted] that alligator.” after seeing a sign that warned against swimming in Adams Bayou. It seems very likely that he was metaphorically saying, “[Expletive deleted] the Man.”
Signs like the one he ignored exist for a reason. But they’ve all become metaphors for why Liberty does not mean do anything you want, anywhere, at any time.
“Liberty means responsibility. That is why most men dread it.”
George Bernard Shaw, Man and Superman (1903)
Liberty is a much more complicated concept than seems commonly supposed. It is meant as a process by which we establish and maintain freedom of the individual from interference or coercion. Intrinsic is a duty of respecting the equal rights of others and just laws expressive of just powers designed to safeguard the equal rights of all individuals. The mechanism of this specific freedom includes self-respect as a spiritual virtue, self-reliance as an economic virtue, and self-discipline as a sociopolitical virtue.
On Sept. 24, 2013, at 8:04 (EST), Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX) read Dr. Seuss’ Green Eggs and Ham during a filibuster on the Senate floor. It would have been more constructive had he chosen to read both Chicken Little and the Little Red Hen; the sky may indeed be falling and we all have to pull together.
I am a minority. I am a Self. The same is true of you. A community is a union of interdependent Selves who work best as a whole when each is possessed of self-respect (the spring of respect for others), self-reliance (the well of an economy that benefits all), and self-discipline (the fount and foundation of most other civic and civil worth).
Or, to use a more famous quote…