I can’t exactly put my finger on it. Perhaps it’s just a holdover from childhood school days, or maybe it’s just a more normal structure of life, but September always seems to bring a fresh start to so many things.
But despite the uptick of September, some days it’s hard to be optimistic and positive about the future. Current events around the world, wrangling political parties warning us the other side will drive us into the ground and the general mood lately is anything but uplifting.
We can find lots of excuses to blame for our malaise, yet most of us need look no farther than the mirror. There simply is no coasting in life. The liberty and freedom we enjoy don’t create happiness; they only set the stage for what we do with those gifts. And if we’ve learned anything from history, we should know the sacrifices of those who came before us paved the way to where we are today.
Look at the recent events in the Middle East, specifically Syria. After years of totalitarian rule, where every move of the people was controlled by a stiff-handed dictator, freedom is releasing years of pent up anger and a desire to test the limits of this new-found freedom. How much have any lives or the world changed since the death’s of Osama bin Laden, Saddam Hussein, or Moammar Gadhafi? Those three men were ruthless killers and treated people horribly, but their deaths alone have not brought about instant change or gratification to their people.
There is no magic formula for the pursuit of happiness and a life of liberty. It’s a process, one that after more than 200 years of existence America is still working to improve. At the core of our Constitution and the rights we’ve been awarded as a free people, it all boils down to the value we place on those rights and the efforts we continue to invest in its perfection.
But when we cherish these rights as our most prized possessions and are willing to risk everything for fear of losing them, only then will we understand their true value. While we can see glimpses of this process in the Middle East, here in America where the nation just celebrated the 50th anniversary of the march on Washington for civil rights, it seems clear that many feel their progress has stalled. Fifty years later, many still feel the daily experience of the average African-American is still marked by racism and exclusion from the American dream.
What many of us take for granted, others around the world are dying for the opportunity to get in line for a small taste. True freedom and liberty requires a constant effort to earn and maintain. If we’ve learned anything from the civil rights movement, despite the gains for African-Americans, none of this comes easily or without a cost, and each of us must earn our place. Freedom isn’t free; it’s merely an opportunity for individuals to change the course of their lives.
There will always be problems to resolve, but we would be far more understanding and willing to work with each other to overcome the simple things while valuing the irreplaceable things.
Is any day not a great day where you have your health, family and the freedom to pursue your version of happiness? The most self-destructive thing we can do in life is to assume that our happiness comes from someone else’s suffering. In life, politics and our communities, happiness is built on the simple joys of building something together and celebrating the joy of that accomplishment. While far from perfect, this country will only continue to find its way when we remember to cherish how far we’ve come as a nation. Furthermore, we must work together to pass along that same opportunity to the generations that follow.
Perhaps in the history of the nation, this is our September. It’s time to recognize our shortcomings and renew our focus with true purpose so our beacon can be the example for the world’s other nations who yearn for our way of life.
Dan Alexander is associate publisher of New Market Press and publisher and CEO of Denton Publications. He may be reached at email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org.