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Darrell Berkheimer: Freedoms for all require compromises

Darrell Berkheimer
Columnist

Today is a day for us to think and talk about our freedoms.

And it is particularly pertinent for us to do so now as we wrestle with freedom issues as a result of the current virus pandemic and racism situations. Strong opinions are being voiced on such issues as wearing masks and whether to retain historic monuments.

As a result, many of us — perhaps most — are faced with trying to walk a fine line between simple consideration of others in the protecting of our freedoms.

The issues were driven home by discussions during one of my men’s group meetings and recent emails I received this past week. What follows are some of the views raised on those issues.

… these issues point to the grave national problem that has resulted in the divisiveness afflicting our country … that unwillingness to give equal consideration to other views.

One email noted:

“Just my opinion …

“If you are offended by something then leave it alone. Cracker Barrel offends you, then eat somewhere else, but I like it so leave it alone.

“A statue offends you, then don’t go see it; but I like to see them as my history, so leave them alone. … Don’t like ‘Gone With the Wind,’ then don’t watch it or read the book; but I like them, so leave them alone. …

“You don’t like the names of military bases, but I do; so leave them alone and stay away from them. You don’t like the police force, then don’t call them when you are in trouble, but leave them alone so I feel safer having them.

“Why are things you want so much more important than what I want? Are your demands greater than my likes? … Let’s make a deal. I will leave what you like alone and you leave what I like alone, and the world will be a better place for everyone.”

Those views are a bit one-sided, but the last comment indicates a willingness to compromise. And compromises are what’s needed.

On the issue of Civil War monuments, I certainly can understand that those monuments serve as a constant reminder of slavery and racism to all black people whose ancestors were slaves — and to those who have suffered from the consequences of modern racism.

But I also can understand the pride of those whose great-great-great ancestors fought valiantly to preserve the way of life in which they were raised. It is extremely hard to choose a different way of life from the one in which you were born. Local author and activist Bill Drake writes about that situation in his book “Almost Hereditary: A White Southerner’s Journey Out of Racism.”

I think what is important is a consideration of differing views — one that recognizes our need to seek compromising solutions — the type of solutions that steer clear of indicating the views of some folks are meaningless and not worthy of consideration.

To that end, the best suggestion that I’ve heard regarding the Confederacy war monuments is to remove them from public locations and assemble them in a closed museum, where those who wish to view that part of our history can do so.

We also must recognize that we need such reminders of wrong directions in our past the same way citizens in Europe have recognized the need to maintain structures and reminders of the Holocaust monstrosities. We cannot rewrite history as long as we have such reminders.

And the would-be destruction of one particular monument bothered me a bit — the statue of John C. Calhoun. Yes, Calhoun was a slave-holder who defended that horrid institution; and he likely would have been an active leader in the Confederacy had he lived that long. But Calhoun also served this nation as a congressman, senator, secretary of war, secretary of state and as vice president — and he died 10 years before the Civil War began.

So his monument deserves to be saved and removed to a museum.

And in turning to the mouth battles we’re hearing over when and how we should wear masks, we must recognize that our national, state, county and city leaders have sworn an oath requiring them to ensure the security of all within their jurisdiction — not just some. And for that reason, they have the obligation to issue mask-wearing requirements.

Such an order is no different than making it illegal for someone to threaten you by pointing a loaded gun at you.

We must acknowledge that those who fail to wear a mask — most especially in public buildings — pose a threat to the life of others. They must be reminded that “your personal freedom ends when you threaten my personal freedom.”

That is perhaps the single most important reason why we form governments — to provide security for one another from those who would threaten that security.

And that is exactly the situation when some folks fail to adhere to the mask-wearing order when inside public buildings, especially in such places as grocery stores, where people must go to get food.

A restaurant situation might be considered differently, however. People do not need to patronize the inside of any specific restaurant or lounge. They have that choice if the establishment does not require or enforce the wearing of masks.

But most important of all is how these issues point to the grave national problem that has resulted in the divisiveness afflicting our country. It is that unwillingness to give equal consideration to other views — and to seek compromises.

Unfortunately, members of our U.S. Congress continue to set bad examples as they push their extreme ideologies while failing to move toward compromises.

Meanwhile, we have the option of finding ways to show our children and grandchildren how important compromising is to their future. That is a positive action we can take during the holiday that honors the birth of our nation.

Darrell Berkheimer, who lives in Grass Valley, is a frequent contributor to The Union. He has seven books available through Amazon. His sixth, Essays from The Golden Throne, includes 60 columns published by The Union, plus a dozen western travel and photo essays. Contact him at mtmrnut@yahoo.com.


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