Most of us picture our American democracy as an affluent cornucopia pouring out opportunities and privileges. “All things are ours!” We can think freely, speak freely, do freely, and enjoy freely. But a democracy interpreted as “the right to do as we please,” is a phony one and cannot survive. Liberty, if taken by itself, creates irresponsible individuals. Liberty alone, ignores what we might contribute to the nation, but rather emphasizes what we can get out of it. President Kennedy recognized this when he said, “Ask not what your country can do for you, but what you can do for your country.”
Liberty’s synonym is “independence”—my personal independence, my right to do whatever I please, without any interference from others, including the “government.” Democracy ceases to be if there is only “liberty” (the right to do as we please) and independence (my right to do whatever I please without interference).
There are two other words necessary for a democracy to endure: “interdependence”—for the very essence of a democracy is cooperation; and “dependence”—dependence on the world community. To lift up independence without recognizing interdependence and dependence is one of the greatest delusions in our present situation. It is liberty without loyalty and without loyalty (interdependence and dependence) there is no room for others, no room for compromise, no room for negotiation; it is only my personal rights that count, because all others do not count.
It took loyalty to create this democracy we are privileged to live in. John Adams, the founding father, wrote: “Posterity! you will never know how much it cost the present generation to preserve your freedom! I hope you will make good use of it. If you do not, I shall repent it in heaven that I ever took half the pains to preserve it.”
|The USS Arizona (underwater) in Pearl Harbor|