Facts + Principles = Opinions
I teach my students that forming a strong opinion consists of filtering facts through personal principles to make an ideological conclusion. They learn that if our opinions differ, it’s because our valid personal principles differ. I impress upon my students that opinions cannot be wrong, and should be shared and accepted with respect.
It has occurred to me, especially in light of recent divisive statements and protests in current events, that while opinions cannot be “wrong”, they can foment disunity.
Diversity at the Price of Liberty
The fact is, the more We the People value diversity over solidarity, the more alienated Americans will become. While there is an inherent danger in forced conformity, celebrated divisions are equally harmful to a nation.
President Trump chose to use his bully pulpit to insult the mothers of the few NFL players who kneeled during the performances of the National Anthem and challenge the authority of team owners.
He reignited a controversy that was already fading. In response, many more NFL players – entire teams, even – chose to defy President Trump’s provocation. What are the disparate principles fueling their opposing remonstrances?
Freedom of Speech
President Trump and his supporters hold Nationalist principles that overshadow the guaranteed liberties under the First Amendment. “Congress shall make no law… abridging the freedom of speech… or the right of the people to peaceably assemble” in protest of our government presumes the right to do so without precluding the right of private businesses to dismiss employees for doing so on company property or time.
Ironically, Trump supporters are citing the county clerk and bakers who protested same-sex marriage and lost their jobs as the justification for firing the kneeling NFL players. This argument negates the former condemnation of such dismissals and government overreach.
In the case of the NFL controversy, franchises chose not to discipline their employees. In fact, owners and coaches joined the protest after President Trump challenged them. For a sitting President, sworn to uphold the Constitution – demanding that private citizens or private corporations display his version of devotion to the National Anthem is antithetical to Liberty.
The NFL teams choosing to participate in protests against the National Anthem value principles of reparation, empathy, and victimhood over corporate allegiance to the symbols of our Republic. These strongly held principles, while not wrong, are not unifying.
This controversy is a prime example of the reason to promote Patriotism. As a nation, we have purposely veered away from actively promoting corporate loyalty to our Republic.
Certainly, in the wrong hands, and for the wrong reasons, patriotism can morph into jingoistic Nationalism instead of devotion to the ideals of Constitutional liberty. President Trump’s provocative challenge to the NFL is a prime example. Yet, to fully abandon efforts to promote unity through appropriate patriotism leads to national estrangement and division.
We must reignite the flame of patriotism founded on our unalienable rights guaranteed under the Constitution. This is most effectively accomplished by protecting and promoting the ideals of Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness found in obtaining Property, as defined by John Locke:
The state of nature has a law of nature to govern it, which obliges every one: and reason, which is that law, teaches all mankind, who will but consult it, that being all equal and independent, no one ought to harm another in his life, health, liberty, or possessions… (and) when his own preservation comes not in competition, ought he, as much as he can, to preserve the rest of mankind, and may not, unless it be to do justice on an offender, take away, or impair the life, or what tends to the preservation of the life, the liberty, health, limb, or goods of another.
Keepin’ It Simple
Let’s invest in devotion to patriotic principles that are simple and easy to share among our fellow citizens. We the People must be unified on the principles of protecting all Life and acknowledging that our Republic guarantees equal Liberty and opportunity to acquire Property for our enjoyment.
We must reject the assumption of discrimination, the glorification of victimhood, the misunderstanding of opportunity versus outcome, the redefinition of welfare, the sacrifice of liberty for false security and all government overreach that threatens our liberties.
Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness must become our shared touchstones if we hope to restore our United States.