Does society dictate political goals or is it the other way around? It’s getting tough to tell these days. With campaigns based on “family values” that are never really defined and legislation steeped in religious belief, one wonders which horse is pulling which cart. I use these two examples only because they are they easiest to grab, but the same conclusion can be made when examining many of our cultural activities. In a society based around the concepts of personal liberty and freedom, such as ours, it is always incumbent upon the citizens to defend their own freedom and to respect the freedom of others. This too, should be the goal of government, but instead, the politicians seek to divide the people, by inflaming cultural differences and advancing selective legislation.

It’s easy enough for them to do too. Ours is a multi-ethnic, multi-belief system, melting pot kind of place filled with people from all over the world, each bringing with them a different set of dreams and beliefs as they seek their own liberty. With no single national culture, finding divisive issues to exploit becomes as easy as taking candy from a baby. It’s an effective ploy that detracts us from keeping our eye on the ball, so to speak. While some politicians busily grandstand the newest cause du jour, the rest of our leaders are just as busily spending our hard earned tax dollars on things that further consolidate power for themselves and their benefactors, leaving the public holding an empty bag or looking at a broken program.

But freedom and liberty cannot exist without a measure of responsibility. And it is this very lack of responsibility, on an individual level and on a societal level too, that makes possible the very divisiveness our politicians exploit. In our “anything goes,” “what about me?” society, we seem to have forgotten that a lack responsible stewardship of our freedoms opens the door for government to restrict more of our freedoms in the name of preserving freedom for us all. It is this kind of upside-down reasoning that fits perfectly with our own upside-down thinking that allows us to take our freedom for granted.

Many of our political topics, the so-called “divisive issues” that seek to separate our country and paralyze meaningful, effective legislation, are things that have no place in politics anyway, but instead belong to a different part of life, a more private part of life, the part of life that makes us who we are. And despite the attempts at division, if taken in a non-political context, many of these issues require little more than Common Sense and compromise. Things like advocating tolerance towards religious beliefs or sex. Things like child rearing, teaching responsibility and work ethic. Things like race relations and entertainment. These are the some of the things that define who we are. These are not things that necessarily require legislation, but that doesn’t stop a politician from trying.

Politics should be about making sure the public is safe. Politics should be about foreign relations. Politics should be about maintaining infrastructure or social programs or the effective use of taxes. Politics should be about keeping the playing field as level as possible. But politics has no real claim to family values or public entertainment or philanthropy, other than to encourage people to find common acceptable standards while tolerating those that are not in the mainstream, but also not illegal. Once a political system begins to legislate or manipulate the daily functions and beliefs of the individual and society, freedom goes out the window, replaced by a kind of opiatic melancholy and eventual apathy.

The way to prevent this from happening is to take back the non-political issues from the politicians and resolve social conflict without the need for legislation, because with every new law put on the books, we are losing our ability to determine our own path.

In the next several essays I will begin to explore some of these dividing points that are often exploited by power hungry politicos, and look for ways to relieve the tension that exists in the citizens without having to resort to legal maneuvering. In each case, resolution will require both a changed outlook among the American people and an increased willingness to stand up for themselves. I look forward to conversations with you concerning social tolerance, the victim mentality, “family values” and parenting responsibilities, the media and entertainment industry, philanthropy, trust, and religion.