Liberty and Independence


Lately I’ve been asking myself why it often seems it’s not okay to express a dissenting opinion. Our disagreements have become offensive to the opposing sides, and the hate and vitriol I see expressed on a range of topics discussed on social media have made me wonder if, with any passionate issue, there is truly an impossible-to-cross chasm between the opposing “sides.”

On most matters, I think the chasm isn’t really so wide. It only appears so because opinions expressed are primarily by those on the outskirts of the issue, often with such slammed-down force that none but other “extremists” have the nerve to express their agreement or dissent.

Typically, I tell myself, “It’s not worth getting involved.” But as uncomfortable as conflict makes me (I run from it like a child runs from a monster in the night) I’m trying change my attitude toward it.

dalai lama

More and more, I see the necessity of disagreement. We must disagree or there is no real dialogue and often no real understanding of the issue or between the “sides,” therefore, no real progress.


I’ve thought a lot about Elie Wiesel‘s quote. I believe there is value in disagreeing and that on some issues, we MUST take sides:

Neutrality helps the oppressor: Because it’s safe and to some extent, anonymous, social media often brings out contempt and hostility toward those who express an opposing opinion, regardless of the topic. This past week, I saw it expressed on both sides of issues regarding the Confederate flag and the SCOTUS ruling on same-sex marriage.

In the past, I’ve stayed out of heated discussions on politics, religion–anything that became heated. I simply didn’t want to be sucked into the anger. In other words, I remained publicly neutral, hid from the “monster,” allowed my liberty to be hampered.

So what happens when only those on the periphery “go to battle,” where the fight gets nastier and nastier, a place the media loves to exploit? We begin to believe we’re farther apart than we really might be–we have an enemy–an enemy we don’t have to talk to, an enemy we refuse to understand. And so, we refuse to consider “the other side” in any meaningful way.

Silence encourages the tormentor, never the tormented: Harsh, angry commentary discourages opposition, hampers liberty, which I believe is the goal of those who respond with such condescension. Silence from the “opposition” is empowering.

For expressing my opposing opinion in the last week–and I believe I was respectful–I was called a Kool-Aid drinker and a Sheeple.

Well, let me say I’m a conservative who believes the Confederate flag should be removed from the grounds of the South Carolina State Capitol, though I also believe every individual should have the right to fly it. That also means every individual has the right to think what they will about it. I also believe every business has the right to sell or not sell it, to display or not display it. Let the market decide the effect of those decisions.

And, I’m a conservative who agreed with the SCOTUS decision on gay marriage. Following is the opinion of the court:

The Fourteenth Amendment requires a State to license a marriage between two people of the same sex and to recognize a marriage between two people of the same sex when their marriage was lawfully licensed and performed out-of-State.

Much of the uproar I read on social media revolves around anger that the church will be forced to perform these marriages.

In writing the majority opinion, Justice Anthony Kennedy addressed this issue explicitly:

Finally, it must be emphasized that religions, and those who adhere to religious doctrines, may continue to advocate with utmost, sincere conviction that, by divine precepts, same-sex marriage should not be condoned. The First Amendment ensures that religious organizations and persons are given proper protection as they seek to teach the principles that are so fulfilling and so central to their lives and faiths, and to their own deep aspirations to continue the family structure they have long revered.

The way I understand it, the SCOTUS ruling recognizes gay marriage as lawful, with all the same rights as a marriage between a man and a woman. Live and let live.

Neither of these opinions falls in line with the Conservative “platform,” so calling me a Kool-Aid drinker or Sheeple doesn’t make much sense.

I have no doubt the passion ugliness will worsen with the upcoming presidential election. I already see it.


As we celebrate Independence Day, let’s encourage independent thinking. Let’s agree to disagree, and do it respectfully. At the very least, taking sides/speaking up/disagreeing makes our world more interesting/encourages discussion/adds checks and balances/moves us toward understanding and compromise/improves the outcome.

At worst, all one has to do is recall the times in history where dissent was discouraged or forbidden.

No more will I “give up my essential liberty” for the sake of “temporary safety.” But to the best of my ability, I’ll disagree with respect.

Happy Independence Day!

(and may all your fireworks be pleasant ones.) 🙂


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2 Responses to Liberty and Independence

  1. Jan, as you well know from my FB post of today, I agree completely that we must be able to disagree civilly and with respect and to be able to discuss without name-calling and hatred. Freedom is a very difficult concept in so many ways, for if one person’s freedom impinges on another’s, what do we do and what is really meant by “freedom?” How do we reconcile all those in this country with different opinions and beliefs? If these things can’t happen, I fear for our country and the many freedoms we enjoy as well as for the lives and spirits of those who live here But each of us can start by disagreeing and discussing respectfully and encouraging others to do the same. No doubt we’ll be ridiculed and excoriated more than once. But hopefully our examples will encourage and embolden the many others who have perhaps remained silent.


    • Jan Morrill says:

      I think expressing opinions is practically a responsibility for those who can do so respectfully. There’s plenty of anger in the world, but that’s not all there is.

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