By Bradley Harrington
“What I’m looking for is not out there, it’s in me.” — Helen Keller, “The Story of My Life,” 1903 —
It isn’t often a letter by a 5th-grader will really make me ponder things, but the one by Kearra Siler (“People need to stop being stubborn, unkind, mean,” “Local 5th-graders share their dreams for Laramie County,” WTE, Feb. 19) sure did, so …
I read with intense interest your letter in the WTE and I wanted to share some of my thoughts with you if that’s OK.
You wrote that “what I want to see in this city of Cheyenne is that we be less stubborn, unkind, mean, etc. Everywhere I go, I see people yelling, cussing and fighting. I just want it all to stop.”
Well, I can certainly understand that, as I felt much the same way back when I was a 5th-grader, which was … ‘Way back in 1969, when I was but a small boy of 10 years old.
Despite having gotten old in that half-century in between, however, that little boy’s heart still beats in my chest, and his thoughts and feelings still live in my soul. He’s never gone away — and I can only hope that as you, Kearra, grow older and wiser, your little girl never really goes away either, for it’s the little boys and girls in all of our hearts and souls, no matter what our ages, that make life worth living.
You ask, Kearra: “Why can’t we all get along? Because of haters. Fighters.”
I, too, wondered about the source of all the conflicts — the fights between people, the wars between countries — but, unlike most kids, I decided to actually find out the answers for myself instead of just blindly accepting whatever my teachers and parents offered me.
And this is what I discovered: That, despite it sounding like a worthy goal, it is NOT beneficial for us to all think the same, believe the same, or pursue the same goals.
As individual human beings, you see, we all have unique thoughts and desires — and, therefore, as long as two or more are gathered together, there’s going to be disagreements. That’s simply a fact of life.
There ARE ways, however, for people to disagree and still get along without hating and fighting, both personally and socially, and it’s really pretty simple when you think about it. Each of us just has to be willing to let people do and think their own things. We have to be willing to give others the space to be who they are, as long as they don’t take away your right to do the same.
There’s a phrase for that idea, Kearra, and it’s called “individual liberty” — which is just a fancy, adult way of saying that we each have the right to our own thoughts and lives, as well as the right to free association.
And this nation we live in? The United States of America was actually the pioneer of that idea, as enshrined in our “Declaration of Independence”: That among these rights are “Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”
No, that idea was not practiced consistently — but it WAS the first time in human history that it had ever even been proposed. And it was that idea that made possible the “melting pot” that America is famous for — a melting pot that worked because it set men and women free from other men and women.
So, as you look at the hating and fighting around you, Kearra, ask yourself: What makes it possible? Do we, as a country, still adhere to the American Dream of individual liberty? And, if not, isn’t that our real problem? That, now, instead of letting people be free, we’re busy meddling in everyone’s lives and telling everybody what to do?
You wouldn’t want someone to tell YOU what you have to think and do, would you, Kearra? So, what else could we ever expect from such actions, other than resentment, hatred and fighting?
So, Kearra, here’s my advice: Forget about those others. You can’t control them, but you CAN control yourself! Find out who YOU are and what YOU want out of life … And then go after it with everything you’ve got, never permitting another person to stand in your way.
And, possibly later, on the chance that you’re interested in solving that wider problem: Shouldn’t we be returning to that idea of individual liberty, making it consistent this time, and getting rid of all the rulings we’ve put in its place?
For that, you see, Kearra, is MY dream …
Bradley Harrington is a computer technician and a writer who lives in Cheyenne. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org.
NOTE: This column was originally published in the Wyoming Tribune Eagle on March 11, 2018. Here is this column’s original downloadable PDF file.