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By Janice Grover-Roosa
It is as much my right to practice my personal beliefs as it is your right not to practice my personal beliefs. This idea, that we can all live and let live, is a principle that, as a 5th generation Wyoming resident, I was brought up to embody. What I’ve come to realize lately is these codes of the West aren’t self-sustaining; codes of the West require upkeep. No matter who we are, we can’t walk around saying, “live and let live” when we feel comfortable and “I don’t agree with your beliefs so I am going to try and impose my beliefs on you by way of government force” when we feel uncomfortable.
To me it looks like liberty in the United States is losing out to complacency–like there are so many more appealing things we civilians can do with our time than to actively discuss what freedom looks like or get up and do something real to preserve it. We go to the polls and get a sticker that tells us we’ve done our duty but is anything valuable really that easy to come by? Does checking a row of boxes marked with an R or a D really constitute our duty as American citizens? Does taking one hour every four years to vote for a specific platform really mean we are standing up for our morals?
Our constitution protects freedom of speech and assembly for a reason. I’m inclined to think the First Amendment exists so we’ll all go out and speak and assemble–so we might persuade one another by sharing our own experiences, points of view and knowledge–not so we can check a box and have a group of government officials act on “our behalves” and in their own best interests. Freedom is about the free, us–we the people. Our government’s job is not to dictate the parameters of our personal convictions, but to protect our ability to discover them for ourselves. When we violate this ideal, when we sell the rights of our neighbors down the river because they live differently, we sell our most essential birthright and the rest of the world watches.
I marched because to me freedom is about utilizing the mechanisms alive in the U.S. Constitution. This Free Country requires all of us to commit to liberty even when it’s really hard, even when someone else practices a belief we personally abhor or when someone else’s beliefs really scare us. When someone promotes a specific ideology or belief I don’t agree with, I don’t want to force them to embody my beliefs, I want to use my rights to free speech and assembly to try and convince them to choose my ideas instead. Until I do, I’ll live and let live.