This has been a summer of odd contradictions. Of people behaving badly and moments of unexpected courage and heart.
Moments when a remarkable president stepped up to the podium, unscheduled, without notes or teleprompter, and asked some vulnerable, heartfelt, and hard questions with an intimate candor no president since perhaps Lincoln has revealed. Comments about race in America that cannot be ignored any longer. Questions that should never have been ignored in the first place.
And then, just weeks later, another moment in which we find a great athlete sadly standing on the edge of scandal and a lifetime ban, poised on the point of his own petard.
From the Zimmerman verdict, the Anthony Weiner rebooted scandal, Edward Snowden’s Russian asylum, and the shuttering of our embassies due to a credible threat, it’s enough to make anyone’s brow wrinkle permanently.
Life is tough. Choices are harder. Dollars are dear and kindness is always in too short of supply. And in the midst of just making it through each day, I suspect a lot of the stress is coming from the ambivalence we feel about things that truly matter.
Things like when is enough enough? Or the uneven application of the law. Or even where to draw the line between taking supplements that make us healthier and stronger and drugs that provide an unfair advantage to those that drink from the magic spoon.
Or even more critical things like our privacy. A thing that until recent events, Americans took for granted and thought inviolate.
That isn’t to say we don’t have privacy. Of course we do. It’s our right. Part and parcel with our freedom. It’s guaranteed, isn’t it? Or is it?
Not exactly. The definition of privacy is dependent on whom you ask or how much reality and history one chooses to conveniently forget about, rationalize or overlook.
I remember, as a child, learning about J. Edgar Hoover and his dreadful witch hunts. I recall the fuzzy confusion I felt even then as I couldn’t understand how anyone who behaved so un-American was allowed to do so in my country. That just didn’t seem right, even though I wasn’t old enough to really know why or comprehend the bewitchment and dangers inherent in power and control with the added ingredient of politics.
Of course, we value our privacy. And, yes, Hoover kind of spooked us badly, but until recent years, even though the rights and privacy of others might have been compromised, we didn’t think ours was, did we? As long as we behaved properly, obeyed laws and stayed out of trouble, our rights were protected, weren’t they? There would be no reasons for us to come up on the radar.
And yet, at the same time, we knew from tales of the KGB and other cold war thrillers that there were things out there that went bump in the night that could really hurt us.
So, in reality, we’ve wanted it both ways for a long, long time. That ambivalent “leave me alone but protect me to the fullest extent of the law.”
Until 9/11, I don’t think we were ever really confronted with the reality that the kind of privacy we had taken for granted would no longer be possible if we were to be protected from an enemy with no nationality, no face and no name. Our lives as we knew them with certain given values would and could no longer remain inviolate as promised.
And yet, now, have we gone from a state of total ignorance where we didn’t know what could hurt us to a fragile condition in which nothing is sacred and everything is up for grabs? And even more importantly, do we really want and have a right to know everything about anyone who is listening and watching our every move, supposedly with the express purpose to protect us from harm.
Europeans have long accepted this dichotomy. This split between having it all and having nothing. We’ve always been more absolute in our beliefs and hopes. America is about reaching for the limit. Going for the max. Striving for number one. We’ve never been a country about compromise.
And yet, I wonder, if this isn’t one of those key issues where we need to grow up, mature a bit. And accept that in order to have some modicum of privacy, we also have to share some of it with those who say their only intention is to protect us from bad things that go bump in the night.
Of course, in the end, that demands trust. And respect. Non-negotiable values on The Inner Bottom Line. Values that cannot, and must not, be sacrificed or else there will be little left to value.
Trust. That the protections that drive the intentions are in our greater interests.
Just a thought.
You can submit your questions or book private phone sessions with Olive at theinnerbottomline.com, call into her blogtalkradio.com show, “The Inner Bottom Line,” at 661-449-1425 with your questions, or explore her new blog at whatskeepingyouawakeatnight.com. All letters and calls can be anonymous and confidential.
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