Opinion

We have the freedom to behave responsibly

As we celebrate the 228th anniversary of the independence of the United States of America, we don’t have to look far to see how hard it can be to muddle through and preserve liberty without allowing irresponsible and harmful behavior.

At times, one must wonder whether our public schools routinely include the study of our founders’ belief in the need for citizens of a republic to act in accordance with what they called virtue (and we might call self-discipline).

It isn’t hard to find examples that illustrate why children need to be taught in the home and at school that it’s an important part of responsible citizenship to strive to be virtuous.

Many people appear to treat the fourth of July as simply a day (or even the middle of a long series of days) for exploding fireworks, rather than a time to celebrate our good fortune and contemplate the principles and sacrifices that got us this far.

Local laws that forbid exploding fireworks except for a limited time on Independence Day don’t seem to have much effect, but maybe it would be worse without them.

Even if we could afford to hire enough law enforcement personnel to catch most of the lawbreakers, I doubt that many of us would want to live in a society that spent such a large portion of government revenue on law enforcement.

There are so many other requirements that ought to be met with that money.

If it’s too hot and dry to allow outdoor fires, how could it be safe to light firecrackers, bottle rockets and other whirling and darting fireworks?

It seems that neither the law nor common sense can be relied on to eliminate the danger posed to all of us by the irresponsible few.

Occasionally, as has happened with the decision to deny entry into the Westbay Center parking lot on the weekend of July 4, the trouble caused by the few becomes too great to ignore.

One can only hope that while we wait for common sense to prevail a sufficient number of lawbreakers can be caught and punished to deter at least a few of the silly among us.

Of course, it doesn’t require a special day or occasion to prompt misbehavior.

The revitalization of Port Orchard’s old downtown area on Bay Street appears to have begun, but there seems to be a little problem related to the behavior of some people patronizing a particular bar.

I suppose it just goes to show that we bush league pundits should be more careful when making suggestions for change.

Not long ago, this column stated the need for a business establishment on Bay Street that attracts young adults and transforms young men into irresistible paragons of manhood through simple presence at that place — but something seems to have been lost in the translation from punditry to action.

While the young men whose behavior has attracted the attention of the Port Orchard police may see themselves as irresistible paragons of manhood, there is reason to believe their perception of themselves is faulty. Excessive consumption of adult beverages will do that to you.

It might be entertaining to bring back the old paddy wagon to haul the miscreants away, but not so entertaining that it would be worth getting up in the middle of the night to go watch.

Besides, hauling them away only solves part of the problem for a short time. Absent a change in their preferred behavior, they will be back before long.

One might hope that the young women could exercise a civilizing influence on the men by making it clear that the men aren’t acting in an admirable manner, but not if the women have also left their judgment in the bottom of an empty adult beverage container.

Change must come, if Bay Street is to be transformed into a thriving and profitable business area.

The only likely source of change in the short term is the management of such business establishments; and, happily, the Port Orchard chief of police recognizes the importance of working with the bar’s management to improve things.

Our own little Bourbon Street might not be such a bad thing, if it doesn’t bring with it more trouble than it’s worth.

Whether the issues are small and local or great and national, the founding generation was correct: Citizens of a republic cannot enjoy freedom without practicing self-discipline.

But, how — short of tragedy — can we get that point across to more people?

Perhaps we could start by occasionally considering that our national anthem ends with a question — and that we are not the ones asking it, but are instead the people who must answer.

Robert Meadows is a Port Orchard resident.

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