Sunday, July 15, 2012

The Voice of an Individual

I hesitate to join big political debates. You might think that's funny as I have no problem talking about baby poop and breast feeding and other, more personal topics. That's the thing. When I talk about a personal experience, I'm the expert. It is my experience. But if I try to offer an opinion on something bigger than me, I open myself up to all kinds of potential criticism, arguments, ubiquitous internet trolls, and opinionated family members.

I'm not a lawyer, a politician, a policymaker, or even a dabbler in any of those fields. My expertise is in making stuff out of nothing. I write fiction, I write software, I cook, I have babies. And I get more than enough negative feedback on the way I do all of those things already. Why bother stepping into a debate where I have no expertise, no platform, no big organization backing me up. But that's my whole point. I am just one person. And I wish to speak out on behalf of all the other "just one persons" out there.

Every article I read lately about religious freedom pits a large organization against an individual. The Churches and employers want "freedom of religion" in picking and choosing what kinds of healthcare its employees can choose. It makes no sense to me.

When people found companies, organizations, churches, and the like, they form something separate from people. Something different. Something new. Organizations become beings unto themselves, with agendas and motivations of their own. They even become legal entities that can act in courts similar to how individual people can. Some companies like to tout how connected they are with their employees,  but that doesn't make the company human. Quite the opposite. In order to need a "connection" with human beings, the company admits that it is not one.

Why do companies and religious organizations have rights that equal or supercede those of human beings? Why would anyone allow them to claim that they do?

How does an organization--a complex combination of money, assets, bylaws, and activities that depends on people and yet is not a person--how does such a thing require religious freedom? The individuals who are employed by it, who run it, who speak for it, who guide it--they are the ones for whom the protection should be afforded. 

A church defines a religion, it doesn't practice one itself. A company might be made up of warehouses or office equipment, intellectual property, money--the company does not go to church. How could it? The company, the church, the club or non-profit, or whatever other category of organization--none of these entities require medical care. None will ever develop cancer, appendicitis, have a baby, require a living will. Only the people that belong to such organizations--as patrons, employees, investors, owners, donors--only the people require the protection of religious freedom.

The biggest danger at election time is that the individuals running for office can be easily swayed by big organizations with big checkbooks. Big organizations who claim to speak for individuals, but really speak for only themselves. And the winners of the elections stand in a precarious position. They themselves will become the spokespeople for not just themselves, but for the people they represent. It is a position that teeters on the line between representing a collection of individuals, and representing some larger organization. A "State". A "City". A "Nation".

My hope for the election year, and for all election years, is that the individuals who end up in office will remember that individuals put them there. And that lawmakers will remember to protect people over companies, human beings over organizations. Individuals vote, not companies.

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