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Allan Schwartz, Ph.D.Allan Schwartz, Ph.D.
Dr. Schwartz's Weblog

Freedom, July 4, 2008

Allan Schwartz, LCSW, Ph.D. Updated: Jul 3rd 2008

 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.

So, what does this mean for a mental health web site?
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?

Allan Schwartz, LCSW, Ph.D.

Readers who live in the Boulder, Colorado metro area, or in Southwest Florida may contact Dr. Schwartz for face-to-face consultation. He is also available for psychotherapy through Skype video for those who are not in Florida or Colorado. He can be reached via email at dransphd@aol.com for details.

    Reader Comments
    Discuss this issue below or in our forums.

    Saoirse (Freedom) - JR - Jul 4th 2008

    Yes, I agree.  Not that everything is perfect with democracy but, as the late Winston Churchill remarked in the UK House of Commons in 1947 -

    "Many forms of Government have been tried and will be tried in this world of sin and woe.  No one pretends that democracy is perfect or all-wise.  Indeed, it has been said that democracy is the worst form of government except all those other forms that have been tried from time to time."

    Indeed.  Ask almost anybody (who is not some sort of soldier, militiaman or policeman) in Zimbabwe at the moment.

    Mind you, I suppose that I have a sort of vested interest - I strongly suspect that under a number of the many forms of Government referred to by Mr Churchill, I might find my humble place in line for the firing squad.  Compared to that, being treated as a bit of a thorn in the odd person's side seems infinitely preferable.

    The preservation of freedom, and of what your great President, Abraham Lincoln memorably called "Government of the people, by the people, for the people", is no certainty, anywhere.  Even in my part of the world, which is usually regarded as something of a bastion of democracy, the outlook is somewhat clouded by the creeping advance of an alternative system - the unacknowledged Consultative Bureaucracy embodied in the European Union project as it has developed since the mid-1980s.  What position might Brussels, in the future, take in the matter of rubber hoses and firing squads ?  I would rather not speculate.

    Ah well.  I suppose we must all be vigilant, and live in hope.  Two further quotes from Mr Churchill seem apt -

    "The day may dawn when fair play, love for one's fellow man, respect for justice and freedom, will enable tormented generations to march forth triumphant from the hideous epoch in which we now have to dwell.  Meanwhile, never flinch, never weary, never despair."

    And, of course -

    "For myself, I am an optimist - it does not seem to be much use being anything else."

    As for the Renee Marie performance, well, some might see it as having been in doubtful taste - but, even on that scale, it would hardly rank with, say, somebody delivering a stirring of "The Bonnie Blue Flag" over dinner with Mr Lincoln in his White House ...

    A Happy Independence Day to all In Here.

    JR

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