Michelle Gillett: Americans need to add a fifth freedom
STOCKBRIDGE >> Seventy five years ago, on Jan. 6, 1941, President Franklin D. Roosevelt addressed Congress in an effort to move the nation away from a foreign policy of neutrality. Up until that point, isolationists held sway in Congress despite the growing menace from Nazi aggression in Europe. Roosevelt was intent on rallying public support for the United States to take a stronger interventionist role to meet dangers from beyond our borders. In his address to the 77th Congress, Roosevelt stated that:
"The need of the moment is that our actions and our policy should be devoted primarily — almost exclusively — to meeting the foreign peril."
Roosevelt insisted that people in all nations of the world shared Americans' entitlement to four freedoms: freedom of speech and expression, freedom to worship God in one's own way, freedom from want and freedom from fear. After Roosevelt's death and the end of World War II, his widow Eleanor often referred to the Four Freedoms when advocating for passage of the United Nations' Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Mrs. Roosevelt participated in the drafting of that declaration, which was adopted by the United Nations in 1948.
Seventy-five years later, our security is still threatened. Human rights violations occur all over, in this country and abroad. Democracy is still under siege in many parts of the world.
I think Jan. 6 is a day that requires our attention, even if it isn't on our personal list of occasions to celebrate. I think about those freedoms as true gifts. They are pretty remarkable, given our troubled world; if you don't feel appreciative, take a moment to imagine what it might be like to be a woman in Afghanistan, a Christian or Yazidi in ISIS-dominated territory, or a civil rights activist in Russia.
If you need a reminder of the importance of the Four Freedoms or what they mean, you can visit the Norman Rockwell Museum and look at the Rockwell's famous paintings of the Four Freedoms to get an even deeper impression of their importance in our lives. Whenever I look at them, I can't help but feel deep gratitude for those of our country's leaders whose values can't be compromised, no matter how many opponents try to defeat and undermine them.
It is how I felt when President Obama announced his gun control executive order and shed a few tears for those who had lost their lives to gun violence. Maybe we will soon have another freedom to add to the four. Personally, I wouldn't mind Freedom from Gun Violence on the list of what constitutes human rights.
But is that the best name for it? How about Freedom from Random Murder? That's a good idea, but as we know random murder is hard to legislate. When you think about it, Freedom from Gun Violence is a good choice, but that might be best thought of as a subdivision, so to speak, of Freedom from Fear.
We know that gun ownership itself is often driven by fear: many "gun rights" supporters want to own as many guns as possible because of their own fear of gun violence coming from other armed citizens. If gun control advocates and Second Amendment mavens both fear gun violence, what do we need freedom from? I think we need Freedom from Manipulation, or perhaps Freedom from Lethal Exploitation.
Look at it this way: our current problem with guns is like heroin addiction. Heroin addiction is a big problem, but quitting heroin is also a big problem. Withdrawal symptoms are scary, painful and sometimes lethal; and living without heroin is also painful at times for those who have learned to use it.
One cure for painful withdrawal is — you guessed it — more heroin. This is what drug pushers always tell their vulnerable victims: the answer is more, not less. Until it kills you. There are those who fear gun violence, and think the logical cure is more guns.
Fight fear together
But feeding an addiction to guns is not an answer. The only people served by gun addictions are the NRA, and their sponsors, gun manufacturers. They are the ones who actually profit from everyone's fears.
Maybe the fifth freedom we need is Freedom from Pushers. That means freedom from drug pushers and freedom from gun pushers. Withdrawal is painful, but as any addict in recovery will tell you, that fifth freedom is a freedom worth working for, and worth cherishing.
If gun control advocates and gun rights advocates worked together to conquer their fears, what would that picture look like? Too bad Norman Rockwell isn't around to paint it, but we can imagine it for ourselves what a beautiful picture that would be.
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