Embracing Liberty.

I’m Gonna Find My Own Way Home.

In Utah, we celebrate the month of July a little differently.

If you have lived in Utah for more than a couple of years, you will know about the near-month-long celebration from Independence Day to Pioneer Day. Liberty is a historically significant principle to the generational people of Utah. Citizens of the United States of America are familiar with the Revolutionary War and the celebrations surrounding the ‘Fourth of July.’ This Federal holiday commemorates the ratification of the Declaration of Independence on July 4, 1776, hence establishing our sovereign nation. Citizens of Utah have a state holiday called Pioneer Day, commemorating the entry of Brigham Young and the first group of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints into the Salt Lake Valley on July 24, 1847. In both cases, the affected parties, colonists and pioneers alike, chose to flee an environment they believed to be oppressive, and, in doing so, underwent great hardships, trials, and loss. To each of these historical groups, the benefit outweighed the cost — the benefit being the right and privilege to exercise their liberty and peacefully lead their existence in the way they saw best for their best lives. The state of Utah and the United States of America share this founding principle in common, and Utah locals have created a history of making July a memorable month for the celebration of personal liberties.

I love the principles of liberty and freedom. This likely originates from a series of innate personality traits I possess, for better or worse. The basic life skills I learned as a child, such as “mind your own business,” “don’t tell me what to do,” “no harm, no foul,” “play fair,” “you mess it, you clean it,” “don’t hurt people or take their stuff,” “you are in my personal space,” and “come back with a warrant,” seem to have stuck with me throughout my life and influenced many of the decisions that have made me who I am today.

An oft-misunderstood facet of liberty is that it is, in fact, a responsibility, a privilege. Responsibilities and privileges come at a personal cost and can be lost when abused. The freedom to choose is both power and liability. In a liberty-minded society, you have the right to “do what you want,” but simultaneously, you must accept the consequences of that decision, whether positive or negative.

I recognize that there are opposing viewpoints to a liberty mindset. My mind is hardwired with the desire to be free, and I have struggled to empathize with individuals whose inclination would be to restrict the liberties of others. Never being one to shy away from a challenge, I have attempted to step outside of myself and talk to some of these people about their feelings and perceptions. What I have discovered is that the fear of someone exercising their liberties poorly causes so much anxiety at a core level that they would sacrifice it all to feel safe – even if that ‘safety’ meant being unrighteously governed.

This conceptual analysis brings me back to the responsibility and privilege of living in a liberty-minded society. Another adage from my youth states, “Just because you can, does not mean you should.” I often hear justifications for behaviors that align with laws, rules, codes, or ordinances. Right or wrong becomes subjective because “it is legal,” “it’s just business,” “I am following code,” “just doing my job,” “this is how stuff gets done,” “everybody else is doing it,” etc.

Far less frequently, I hear that decisions are made on the principle that “it is the right thing to do.” This is a ‘good — better — best’ scenario. It is good to follow the laws of the land. Understanding why the laws exist and being part of the process is better. Living where your love and respect for others transcends governmental regulation is the best-case scenario. In other words, to maintain a free society, we must ‘do the right thing’ voluntarily instead of requiring coercion.

Imagine a world where a community could meet all of its needs through the honest exchange of goods and services and the voluntary application of charity toward those in need. The necessity for a governing entity could be reduced to mediating liberty infringements between citizens. Taxes and the innumerable agencies would not be necessary. Don’t be afraid — think about it for a minute or two. We are a long way off from this vision today, but the founding principles of the United States of America are not that distant from such a concept. This type of society was the goal nearly 250 years ago when United States colonists declared independence from the British, and why we actively celebrate the Fourth of July. The concept only works if each citizen buys in and participates in the community. Self-sufficiency, volunteerism, and freedom are intertwined.

It takes courage to face the world as a self-governing individual in a whirlwind of authoritarianism, deception, moral vagrancy, and misinformation. Wisdom from one of my favorite stoics comes to mind:

“When you wake up in the morning, tell yourself: The people I deal with today will be meddling, ungrateful, arrogant, dishonest, jealous and surly. They are like this because they cannot tell good from evil. But I have seen the beauty of good, and the ugliness of evil, and have recognized that the wrongdoer has a nature related to my own — not of the same blood or birth, but the same mind, and possessing a share of the divine. And so none of them can hurt me. No one can implicate me in ugliness. Nor can I feel angry at my relative, or hate him. We were born to work together like feet, hands and eyes, like the two rows of teeth, upper and lower. To obstruct each other is unnatural. To feel anger at someone, to turn your back on him: these are obstructions.”

-Marcus Aurelius, Meditations: Book 2:1

Positive living amongst humanity takes patience, empathy, and daily courage. It is too easy to “turn your back” on your neighbor, write them off, call the cops, send a legal notice, blast them on social, or light them up on their DMs. What takes maturity and bravery is to respect the “meddling, ungrateful, arrogant, dishonest, jealous and surly” for “possessing a share of the divine” and working through your issues as conscientious and self-sufficient human beings. Our potential as a free society increases with the ability to resolve our disputes independently.

There have been times when I have felt invisible, like I am the only one who thinks the way I do. Those looking to establish their authority probably like it when people like me feel that way. With a little dose of life experience, I have come to believe that inwardly, most of humanity wants the liberty to choose how to live their best life the way they see fit. As stated in a summertime anthem from my youth:

Went to the well but the water was dry
Dipped my bucket in the clear blue sky
Looked in the bottom and what did I see?
The whole damned world looking back at me

– Robert Hunter, Liberty

The human spirit is not meant to be caged or placed in isolation. Fear creates a herd mentality where tribal lines are drawn and wars are instigated. Take the time to speak genuinely, and you will find common ground with your neighbor because, in reality, we are all part of the same tribe.

As a liberty-minded soul, I witness that voluntary acts of charity and love towards your fellow citizens will bring joy. Joy is not a fleeting moment of happiness but an inner glow, peace, satisfaction, and contentment with one’s connection to one’s species and planet. To desire liberty is not selfishness, and the risks are worth the reward. If you crave individuality, wanderlust, independence, self-discovery, a limitless life, authenticity, or a life without labels — the path is freedom, and the vehicle is self-sufficiency.

I challenge the Heber Valley to embrace their liberty and celebrate the human spirit this summer. Accept people for their differences and learn to respect another for an opposing viewpoint. Don’t let the political silly season get to you, but be a part of the process, all the same. We live in an amazing location, but without the people, it is just a place. Be part of the reason the Heber Valley is amazing.