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OPINION: Living as a free people, with respect to others

September 8, 2021 at 5:30 a.m.

We as individuals and as a people treasure our freedoms. We wish to protect our freedoms and to exercise them without undue complications or interference. But sometimes occasions arise that raise issues with our exercise of our prerogatives, especially when our choices come into interaction with the rights and freedoms of others, and when issues of the general welfare are in play.

In relation to the exercise of our rights and liberties, I like to consider principles such as: "Do unto others as you would have them do unto you," or, as stated in the Bible in Galatians 5:13-14, "For, brethren, you have been called unto liberty, only use not liberty as an occasion for the flesh, but by love serve one another. For all the law is fulfilled in one word, even this, Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself."

Most of us do not like having someone else tell us what to do. That is especially if we think they are trying to take advantage of us, or to boss us around to our disadvantage, or to position themselves as dominant over us. We like to think for ourselves, and to resist anyone who seems to want to do our thinking for us. But does this mean that we never listen to advice from others, or that we never acknowledge that we need to respond positively to the directions of governing authorities, or that we may need to modify our prerogatives in acknowledgement of the rights and liberties of others?

I'm thinking of one of our rules for driving our vehicles. In the United States, we drive on the right side of the road. Interestingly, in some countries, including England, drivers drive on the left. We regard the roads as our roads, and we own them as a people. But does that mean that we can at any time decide that we don't like being confined to driving only on the right, and just take to driving on the left at will. Probably we would soon be faced with the reality that the rule for driving on the right is a rule intended to protect all drivers, and to minimize interference between drivers. Rather that it being a limitation on our freedoms, the rule helps us maintain freedom from harming ourselves and from harming other people. OK, on our two-lane roads, of with there are many, there are some occasions when it is OK to move over into the other lane. We have a right to pass when a driver ahead of us is driving slowly, and we want to move along faster. But, that doesn't mean that we can just pass at will. We need to check that our passing can be done without interfering with the rights of others to the road and to their safety in travel.

Normally we consider that we have a right to go places, and to choose those places where we want to go. Are there times when there could be appropriate limitations on that right? I remember a time when I was quite young, about 5 years old, when I had a communicable disease, and Dr. Greene, our Pea Ridge doctor at the time, put our family in quarantine. We were to stay in for several weeks, not to go to the store, to church, to the singing at Shady Grove, or anywhere. We were just to stay in to avoid spreading the illness. What if we had just said to Dr. Greene, "Doc, we're not going to do as you say, we have a right to go out if we want to."

We might have rationalized that we are not our brother's keeper, or even that maybe those other kids need to catch the sickness so maybe they'll survive it and be immune. Anyway, we stayed in for the several weeks, then resumed going places as we had a right to do.

It apparently is a reality that some people have solidified their mindset to resist listening to advice from other people. They are not willing to listen to or to trust trained medical personnel, or governmental officials, or clergy, or even family or friends. There are even those who take a belligerent attitude toward almost anyone who ventures to point out things they should do or should not do. This creates great problems for a society in which people seek to help each other live as free people, and where people in the society try to contribute positively to each other's prosperity and well-being. Old values still apply to our contemporary situation -- "Love your neighbor as yourself," "Do unto others as you would have them do unto you."

Use your liberty, not as an occasion for personal indulgence, but as a caring person, engage in work for the good of all.

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Editor's note: Jerry Nichols, a native of Pea Ridge and an award-winning columnist, is vice president of Pea Ridge Historical Society. He can be contacted by e-mail at [email protected], or call 621-1621.

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