Let Freedom Ring
We Americans yearn for freedom, for freedom is the American Spirit. Our ancestors fought and died for freedom … freedom to assemble, to worship, to speak out, to bear arms, etc. When Americans bore arms in battle, it was usually to defend our way of life – our freedoms – against the Redcoats or the Nazis. The enemy was always visible.
Now, we Americans are confronted with an invisible enemy – against which we cannot bear arms. Instead, we are asked to mask up and social distance and isolate.
This self-imposed isolation seems to be the antithesis of freedom.
In general, American society is built on interaction – work, church, school, sports, music, recreation, etc. We are a group-oriented social society. We cooperate, compete, and communicate. But now we are asked to isolate. This is not the American way. It goes against our basic values – our “Bill of Rights,” so to speak.
How do we fight an invisible enemy that requires us to go against our basic values, to change our behaviors, our way of life.
We Americans are having a tough time making this transition. In order to succeed against this invisible enemy, we must change our perceptions and behaviors. We must re-structure our concept of freedom and we must change our behaviors.
Let us first define freedom. Freedom equals rights times (x) responsibilities. F=Ri x RE.
We Americans are very individualistic. We do not want anyone telling us what to do. We resist change imposed by outside forces. Top-down rules will, therefore, be defied. When, however, someone in our family or social circle falls ill or dies, strong emotions are elicited and a change in perception may occur. It has to become real to be believed. These experiences may then foster change in behavior. But – at what price?
The thoughtful will change. The thoughtless will not. Those who have experienced the pain caused by the virus will change. Those who have not will continue to engage in group-think or conspiracy theories in an attempt to understand this invisible enemy. In the meantime, without an agreed upon approach to battling this invisible enemy, more will suffer, more will die.
Catching COVID-19 is just one form of suffering. Economic hardships abound. People are jobless; companies, small and large, are bankrupt. Families are homeless. Children are hungry. Our society is in chaos due to an enemy that cannot be seen or heard. Nor, is there a unified battle plan to defeat it?
What good are rights without the concomitated responsibilities to protect those rights? For example, we have the right to assemble, without masks, without social distancing. Whose responsibility is it to care for those who come down with COVID-19 as a result of such foolish behaviors? Our health care workers are already stretched to the breaking point without more COVID parties. As Forest Gump said, “Stupid is as stupid does,” yet the people who are engaging in such foolish behaviors are hardly stupid. What makes people engage in these behaviors? Is it the invincibility of late adolescence or the defiance of adulthood?
Remember, the “Redcoats” were defeated because they could not change their battle plans, and the Nazis were defeated because their values were just plain wrong.
Are we going to be rigid and wrong or flexible and right? The choice is ours.
Dr. Darlyne Nemeth practices in the areas of clinical, medical, and neuropsychology in Baton Rouge, Louisiana at the Neuropsychology Center of Louisiana, LLC. She is also the 2010 recipient of the Louisiana Psychological Association’s Distinguished Psychologist Award. Find more on Dr. Nemeth here.