Have we lost an understanding of freedom?
I hope that you had a great three day weekend and a Happy Memorial Day.
Since my oldest son recently became a Marine, I’ve developed a deeper interest in the military. Its history, its traditions and its importance. For that reason, I decided not to write this issue of The Grind on Sunday, but rather to enter Memorial Day and reflect on it and allow that to influence my thoughts.
I’m glad that I did.
We operate on narrative. The storyline running around in our head, and reinforced by our environment, is what largely shapes our perspective and how we interpret and respond to the world.
Right now, the narrative in the world is challenging. There are more contributors to it than ever, and that creates a ton of dissonance. There is also a growing focus on the now and the future, which seems to be diminishing our ability to reflect on the past. We just don’t seem to care as much about history as we used to.
I love the future. I am very future oriented. I’m optimistic and a believer that we are constantly moving towards a better human race, although we do make mistakes and have some significant unintended consequences from our collective actions. I believe generally, we are good and getting better.
But I have to admit, I am guilty of losing the context of how we got to this reality we live in today.
Memorial Day, particularly this one for me, has been a helpful reorientation with some of the events that resulted in the reality that I live in today.
One event in particular stuck out to me, World War II.
We’ve made legend of the evil that threatened the world during World War II. We live in the world that we enjoy today, where for the most part, we are free from the tyranny of one man’s hate movement and his rules of ethnic superiority that would demand death of all “impure” humans.
But we don’t often enough remember how large the sacrifice was that led us down this fork in the road as opposed to a much more dismal one.
US troops alone who lost their lives in WWII are numbered in the hundreds of thousands. This does not include those maimed, scared mentally and emotionally etc.
This war was a tremendous collective sacrifice for a truly worthy cause. We might argue that things today are difficult and unfair and that we are experiencing evil in the world today, but we are not in the midst of the kind of terror that was sweeping across Europe during WWII.
In the late 1930s, the reality of the human experience is something most of us can not imagine living with today. Humanity was not entitled to a future without ethnic cleansing, we had to sacrifice greatly for it.
I can say with certainty that in my life that while I have experienced difficulty and trauma, it cannot compare with what it must have felt like to be a soldier in WWII, or a slave in America before the Civil War. Those were truly difficult times and I wouldn’t trade my life with those souls for anything.
This remembrance made me question if we have lost too much context and become too entitled.
What have I done to deserve the peace that mostly encapsulates my life today? Yes, I do believe that all humans inherently deserve that peace, but while any one of us does not enjoy it (and many in the world today do not), what ideological self-righteousness would drive me to somehow think I deserve what others don’t have without sacrifice.
One month from today, I probably won’t be thinking about this at such a “life or death” level, but I hope I remember this context of things I desire in the world. I am not entitled to anything. The price of freedom is sacrifice. I am already beyond gifted with fantastic genes, good health and amazing family. I’m in the .01% already.
Everything else I want in this world, I deserve to work hard and sacrifice for. That’s what I deserve.
I should keep the challenges that enter my life in this context. Others have endured challenges that I can’t even imagine. If I can remember them, even when I don’t feel strong, I can be encouraged by their incredible sacrifice and display of human will to find my strength.
I am not an authority to suggest anything for you on this topic, but if this resonated with you at all, then I hope you find the perspective to help you be more grateful and resolute in this life, if only for today.
Have a grateful day.