Listen to authority figures, but in the end, you must decide for yourself, in accordance with your own considered judgment and personal conscience. An authority figure can be dead wrong, as in the case of the ferry captain or crew telling passengers to stay put while the ship sank. It is up to each individual to make important life decisions–including the decision to pull one candidate’s lever or another in an election. Far too often, we must sift through an abundance of political propaganda to ascertain the truth.
There are good and bad things about individualism in America. One of the good things is the tendency of Americans to take individual action when a person they encounter is clearly in harm’s way.
When a person becomes deeply committed to an extremist mindset, he/she may be more likely to commit a horrific act, like the shooter at the Jewish Community Center in Kansas. We must be prepared to resist such an individual, even he/she pressures us to act inhumanely toward others.
When bullies form themselves into a cadre or group within a school setting, kids must find it within themselves to do what they know is right, resisting the pressure they may feel to not report an incident of bullying to a teacher, counselor, safety officer or administrator.
It requires courage to act alone on behalf of those unable to defend themselves.
Whistleblowers put themselves at tremendous risk when they report misdeeds on the job, but there are times when conscience demands that we speak out, even when to do so may jeopardize us personally.
The ability to exercise individual conscience is a vital attribute that we must retain within American culture. Our institutions can only do so much; ultimately, it is up to each individual to recognize when a course of action is helpful or hurtful to others.
In the political realm, one may feel strong pressure to adopt an extreme left or right position; it can take some courage to take the middle path of evaluating each issue independently, and making a personal decision about what is right or wrong. One may feel pressure to adopt an entire political agenda. But as I have said before, neither the liberal nor the conservative has all the answers to our national problems. That is why we must learn to listen carefully to both sides, then make an individual decision.