I’m troubled by how we’ve been using the word “freedom” in our country lately. It’s as if it now somehow stands for the right to segregate, humiliate, and terminate the freedoms of other Americans. We seem to have flipped the whole notion of tolerance. Some seem to believe that impeding the right to discriminate is somehow attacking religion and the rights granted to us under the Constitution.

I don’t support this way of thinking.

The “Black Lives Matter” movement is not an attack on Caucasian people. It’s a movement acknowledging that treatment of Blacks in our country has been unfair in general, and criminally unfair in countless circumstances. There is no need for a counter “All Lives Matter” movement.  The notion that all lives matter is the underpinning of how the “Black Lives Matter” movement came to be. Let’s listen, enlighten ourselves, and most of all empathize.

Refusing a gay couple’s right to marry under the law is not defending a religious principle. In our country, gay men and lesbians have the right to decide for themselves if their actions violate the laws of their religion. Their decision, one way or another, has no impact on the rights of anyone else. No one has the moral authority to restrict their rights. In fact, there is no legal or moral basis for restricting the rights of another who acts outside our religious beliefs.

Refusing to sell a person a slice of pizza or a wedding cake because of their religious preference, skin color or sexual orientation, as some U.S. businesses have done, is not supported by any recognized religious belief nor does the Bill of Rights allow that form of callousness. Those aren’t actions we should celebrate. Dismissing these people as merely individuals exercising their rights turns our collective backs on the principle of placing value on those whose beliefs differ from our own and the notion of Universal Love.

Whether you support or reject the wording in the Equal Rights Amendment, treat the people who work for you equally and fairly. Support the women in your life who want to be treated as equals in their workplaces. Show you “get” why people want to be treated fairly.

No matter what your views are on immigration, understand that we are all the descendants of immigrants who sought freedom and better lives for their families. We are beneficiaries of their sacrifice. Likewise, show empathy and respect for those crossing the border now.  It’s not part of their life missions to break our laws. They are today’s incarnation of our parents and great grandparents, or great-great grandparents. They want to be Americans. That alone deserves our respect and admiration.

“Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free”. Those words should come to mind when we hear about refugees fleeing persecution and war. It’s inscribed on the Statue of Liberty as part of the poem, New Colossus. That statue, those words, meant everything to our forefathers and foremothers. It is at the core of their legacy.

We have to decide if we are chips off their collective blocks or merely over-privileged heirs, drunk with delusions of American exceptionalism.

I fear, in this country, we are losing one of the most basic tenets of humanity, the ability to put ourselves in other people’s shoes. Some rightfully question whether we ever had it.

The world is watching.

Do we have the ability to look inward? Can we finally become one nation and show the world what the concept of “all people are created equal” really looks like?

~ R. Harvey Bravman, Publisher