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Freedom, July 4, 2008

Allan Schwartz, LCSW, Ph.D. was in private practice for more than thirty years. He is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker in the states ...Read More

I read about an incident occurred the other day in the city of Denver, Colorado. July 1st, Mayor John Hickenlooper was scheduled to read the State of the City Message, an event that includes a public ceremony. He asked a popular local Jazz singer, Renee Marie, to sing the National Anthem prior to his reading of the State of the City Message. Unbeknownst to him, the singer proceeded to with a completely different song, one thought of as the Black National Anthem. The background tune was the National Anthem but the lyrics were different. Just to clarify, the lyrics do portray love of country.

The public reaction was outrage. Mayor Hickenlooper expressed his sense of betrayal for her having never told him or asked him about her intentions. He also demanded that she apologize, and she did so. Members of City Counsel, both Black and White, expressed their distress at what Renee Marie had done, which essentially, was to publicly embarrass everyone.

While the readers of this posting are free to hold their own opinion on what Renee Marie did, it is not my intention to comment on the appropriateness or inappropriateness of her behavior. Rather, I want to elaborate on a comment made by Mayor Hickenlooper that, I thought, was more to the point than anything else.

To paraphrase what the Mayor said, there are very few nations in the world where a person could do what Renee Marie did without fearing for the government exacting severe and dangerous revenge. He reminded everyone in the public that our’s is a free country, where there is freedom of speech and where people can express their views without worrying about imprisonment, torture and death.

I have to agree with the Mayor regardless of my opinion about how appropriate Renee Marie’s behavior was or was not.

It has been said by some that democracy can be alienating. By this is meant that people are forced to be, by the very nature of democracy, to be more self reliant. I guess that is why Erich Fromm, the great psychologist who lived during and after the Holocaust, wrote his powerful book, Escape From Freedom. In many ways, although horrifying, it is easier to live in a dictatorship, or so people think. The dictatorial government does everything for the people. Of course, there is a huge expense paid for having a government tell you how to live life, and that is personal choice, taste and preference.

I don’t know about you, but, from my perspective, it is far better to live in a democracy where I have freedom rather than in any type of dictatorship where I have to be careful of anything I say or do for fear of imprisonment or worse.

What are your opinions?

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