Four Freedoms Awards speak to a brighter future

The passing of another year is at hand. There is a tendency at this time for introspection and contemplation about the future. In the drama of the past year we are left with a sour taste and desire to end negative noise; the frustration of many that government does not seem to be working or that it is going in a wrong direction prevails. We have seen a war between two decidedly contradictory notions of where that direction should be. One addresses a generic desire for “jobs and the economy.”

There are two other visions: one side calls for smaller government, lower taxes, less spending, fewer business regulations — in other words, the status quo, ignoring the troubles we have seen. The second direction is toward a society that wants to see more justice: thus health care, jobs created through spending and investments for infrastructure, innovation and growth.

Government is going through a period of disruption and dysfunction. We are not alone, for Europe faces similar problems. Anger is so apparent in these waning days of the year that it falls on everyone — Congress, the president and all agencies. Consequently we see a much larger part of the population desiring to leap forward and think about a whole new cast of characters to govern the nation: Mayors, governors and the federal government bypassing 2014 and moving on to 2016. That date seems to offer hope and a leap forward to better times. Will it?

On the optimistic side, not all of this past year was bad: Washington, California and Kentucky among a few states created insurance exchanges that made the ACA workable and useful to the uninsured. A much maligned health insurance program will create jobs and provide a safety net for our mobile workforce when jobs fall short. Naysayers will get used to getting better health coverage, though sometimes at a higher price.

There has been a lot of talk about freedom — though there is no mention of the so-called loss or gain of freedom, or a sensible definition. Yet in 2013 awards were given out by the FDR Four Freedoms Foundation.

The Freedom Medal went to Wendell Berry, a poet who believes “humans must learn to live in harmony with the natural rhythms of the earth or perish.” Paul Krugman’s award was for Freedom of Speech in the areas of economics and politics. Ameena Matthews’ award was for her work as an “interrupter” in order to cure violence. She physically interrupts violence in the Chicago area. Her award was Freedom from Fear. The Freedom from Want award went to the Coalition of Immokalee Workers in Florida: fair wages, freedom from violence and sexual harassment and fair food for 100,000 tomato farm workers. An award for Freedom of Worship went to Sister Simone Campbell (religious leader, attorney, poet, known for “nuns on the bus”) for supporting health care. She is now a lobbyist for justice in Washington, D.C.

Freedom is defined differently through these awards, not as they have been by undefined cranks. Those crying freedom from socialism, communism and whatever else can be conjured up should take heart at the breadth of the Four Freedoms Awards, for they point to the direction of our future. The economy is improving; ACA will eventually work. We will learn to live in harmony with the rhythms of nature and deal with the need to come to terms with climate change. Our debt is falling and will continue to do so. The trend is toward an improvement in voting: Freedom to vote.

We cannot survive unconnected to others here and abroad. Some people are never connected, hiding out in rural areas amassing an armory, seeing doom everywhere. These individuals may never be connected, and no doubt we should be concerned about them. In the meantime, the larger community moves on, for there is a desire for a future better connected for all.

Martha J. Pierce is a member of The Olympian Board of Contributors. She can be reached at Marbill83@ comcast.net.