To The Herald-Whig:
My fifth-grade classroom teacher, Miss Laura Watkins, saw to it that her students memorized all four verses of "America, the Beautiful." Her piano playing was enthusiastic, if not always accurate, and through her sense of purpose, strong will and sincerity, the message conveyed in Katherine Lee Bates' lyric from 1893 holds special meaning now more than ever.
The refrain of the second verse comes to mind and is as follows: "America! America! God mend thine every flaw, Confirm thy soul in self control, Thy liberty in law."
There is no asterisk after Bates' final phrase that cites exemptions or exceptions.
Liberty is a universal inalienable right cited in the Declaration of Independence. It is governed by law, presumably law well-reasoned and fairly applied.
As liberty is at the foundation of our democratic republic, laws are not to be opted out of based on personal preference, convenience or impulse. Liberty is not anarchy; it is not license to cheat, lie, take advantage of, or do harm to others. It's not to be doled out according to red state/blue state, rural or urban, liberal or conservative, young or old, privileged or homespun, rich or poor, arrogant or humble. It is not granted according to race, religion or creed.
Then there's that delicate matter of the "self control" of one's own "soul" that could be interpreted as the most important regulator of responsible behavior, in both word and deed.
Thanks, Miss Watkins, for a most valuable and timely lesson.