Daily Resource Highlight - 07/05/2022

Posted by on July 05, 2022 at 5:32 PM

Below are the highlights and featured resources of this past week’s Daily* Resource.

June 28, 2022 - Let’s Talk About What It Means to be Free

Years ago, I watched a TV show that followed the life of a girl whose immigrant family had come to America when she was very young. Their native country was notable for having very few freedoms. At one point during the episode, the girl was asking her parents for more flexibility but then said, “I agree, though, that Americans have too much freedom.”

Those words stuck with me. America was founded on the concept of freedom, and I’m very proud of that fact. But what does “freedom” mean? Putting aside the atrocity of slavery (to the extent that one can put it aside), freedom has very different meanings to different groups.

This month alone, we have seen two very different kinds of freedom come into the national spotlight. On the one hand, Congress passed a bill restricting gun ownership (AllSides) for the first time since the 90’s. The vote was notably bipartisan, despite some skepticism from the right (The FlipSide), which has long valued its 2nd Amendment rights.

On the other hand, the Supreme Court officially overturned Roe v. Wade (The FlipSide), which had found the right to an abortion in the Constitution. As Essential Partners noted for its conversation guide, the Court’s decision “turns one polarized national conversation into fifty distinct deliberations.” And AllSides just republished an op-ed from Divided We Fall on how communities can approach the topic in a way that avoids violence. Meanwhile, 13 states had abortion restrictions (Bill Track 50) that went into effect once Roe was struck down.

But let’s take a second to circle back to that girl’s words – do they still ring true? Are we unusually free? Living Room Conversations just published two conversation guides on  LGBTQIA+ identity – one as an affinity group and one on exploring our understanding. It was only seven years ago that Justice Kennedy’s opinion recognized gay marriage as a legal right, and the community is still fighting for equality, but in several countries homosexuality is still illegal.

What other freedoms do we enjoy as Americans? What freedoms should we enjoy? What would a truly free country look like, and do we want that? The Interactivity Foundation recently published a four part series on freedoms, and we encourage you to think about these questions as you read their articles on Freedom of Speech; Freedom of Worship; Freedom from Want; and Freedom from Fear.

June 30, 2022 - Are You Willing to Question Yourself?

I have a saying when it comes to my personal politics, “I am confident that I’m wrong about something I’m sure about.” In other words, I believe strongly that I hold opinions that simply don’t stand up to scrutiny, which is why it’s important to me that I leave room to question my own beliefs.

In the reform movement (and likely for most Americans), transparency in government is generally considered a good thing. And yet, Divided We Fall recently published “Secrecy or Transparency in Congress?” One of the central arguments of the pro-secrecy D’Angelo is that transparency substantially increases polarization and the clout of special interests. And according to D’Angelo, “Pro-transparency scholars are hard to come by.”

To be clear, I’m not implying that secrecy (or transparency for that matter) is the right approach. Instead, I’m suggesting that we need to be willing, and even eager, to question our default assumptions. For instance, how many of us have gone to Politifact or Snopes to fact-check claims we read online? I know I have. According to The Factual, both sites have a consistent left-leaning bias (FactCheck is considered less biased). And what about your favorite news sources? Are you surprised by the lean of its audience? Did you know that the New York Times may be spreading false information (AllSides)?

In this age of technology where politics and the news feel like they’re moving at a record pace and there is seemingly always something to be alarmed about, it is genuinely hard to take a step back to question what you think you know. We only have so much mental energy, and dedicating it to fighting ourselves isn’t the most obvious approach. But I’d suggest that it is important to try, especially when you’re interested in changing the system. Reform, as we’ve mentioned before, can have unforeseen consequences, and poking holes in our own defaults could help us avoid some of those consequences.

(On a related note, I was surprised to find out from the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget that the Federal Reserve’s plan to fight inflation will increase the National Debt. Just another example where something I would think is smart – cutting inflation by increasing interest rates – has consequences I didn’t even consider)