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Tue May 26, 2020, 09:40 AM

Just some errant free association thoughts today about social behavior.

First, I was thinking about Memorial Day and the solemn tribute we give to our soldiers who paid the highest cost to protect our freedoms. And then I thought about how people interpret how we should best respect that sacrifice, because there are two camps. I imagine there are derivations, but this morning, I was thinking about the two conflicting ways that we interpret the phrase, "soldiers who died to protect our freedoms."

One side interprets this sacrifice much like they do in religion, Jesus dying on the cross for us, sacrificing himself in order to cleanse us enough to be allowed into heaven. For that sacrifice we owe him a devotion that dictates the terms we should live by. And the best way to understand those terms is to listen to His autocratic interpreters from church, defining the rules that we should live by.

Well, that's how conservatives think that we should respect the sacrifice that soldiers made for us, by lining up and allowing ourselves to be led by whatever social mores makes sense to them. It usually involves stepping aside as they social engineer whatever culture stabilizes their ability to live well, and continue dictating to the rest of us.

The second camp is quite the opposite. Our definition of freedom does not put chains on thought. Quite the opposite. We follow our own conscience and our own dreams. We even reserve the right to define and expand on the definition of "American Dream." I say this, because living near conservative circles you get the impression that the only concept of the "American Dream" that we're allowed to have is home ownership. It's definitely on the list, but I imagine that a country of more than 300 million believe that one indication of true freedom, is to be able to define our own dreams, and not be dictated to.

Since this was an exercise in free association, my next thought was of the many ways that conservatives try to herd us. They try to abridge any form of free thought that they feel threatens their authority. I sort of went full circle, thinking back to the beginning, how they use the sacrifice of soldiers to stop us from bringing up concepts and ideas that destabilize their way of life. Certainly, their form of religion is meant to subdue reactionary behavior by convincing their own people that they should forgive transgressions, (which turns out to be very subjective, as to who should be forgiven, and who deserves their wrath. It's like a brainwashed army.)

So, we have religion and patriotism used as two mechanisms to control behavior. But what happens when they can't reach you through their institutions, because you've learned to avoid them?

Ha! That's a trick question. Even if you don't belong to their institutions, other people do. Your friends, your family members. Someone always knows someone who knows someone you know. And that's how messages get transmitted. Which, in turn, teaches you to redefine the concept of friendship, and the expectation of family ties. It's a challenge when you're bi-cultured, and the rest of the family is not.

From my perspective, it's easy to resolve all the conflicting messages. The soldiers that died for us, they fought to defend our freedom from foreign transgression. To honor that sacrifice, we in turn, have to fight to protect our individual freedoms inside our borders.

And only in America, can you have a culture war going on where two different groups of people believe in the very idea, that we have to fight other Americans to protect our individual rights, putting us in constant conflict.

That's how far I got in my free association this morning. To determine who is right, and who is wrong, we would have to examine the situation to determine what group has taken unfair advantage of the situation to aggrieve the other side.

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