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Home / Articles / Columnists / On the Bright Side /  Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness
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Monday, November 5,2012

Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness

By Jonna Shutowick. M.S. Ed.  
Most would agree that government exists to maximize societal well-being and happiness, at minimal cost to the nation. Great thinkers have been juggling with how best to achieve this balance for centuries, and the quest for the perfect system continues. In an election year it is easy to lose sight of the fact that our capitalist democratic republic is still the freest in the world. In fact, it is largely due to the freedoms we cherish, particularly free speech, that this Jonna Shutowick is a high school teacher for the Palm Beach County school district. She has created a character named Rosey Shades TM, whose philosophy teaches students about the importance of choosing optimism over pessimism by asking, “What color are the clouds in your world?

It has been said that democracy is the worst form of government...except all the others that have been tried.”

-Winston Churchill

For more information, visit www.roseyshades. com or email at http://roseyshades- reality gets thwarted as we are inundated for months with messages designed to frighten us about what will become of our country if the “wrong” person is elected. In listening to the recent debates one thing remained crystal clear: The Republicans and Democrats do not disagree on the role of government; they disagree on where the government should focus their energies. Both striving to keep America strong, one side says, “If you help these people, it will help us all,” and the other side says, “No, its ‘these’ people who need the help, and that will help us all.” Debate in the public sphere is crucial to the democratic process. Unfortunately, and especially in an election year, the dialogue becomes so distorted as both sides spend millions of dollars to have their voices be the loudest. Further, the political process seems to work from the notion that in order to get people out to vote you have to target their most basic emotions. The candidates are made to seem like the only choice - or else! Yet, I vigorously defend free speech, whether it sings to me or it makes me want to scream.

Thus, with the election season now over, I will briefly opine about one thing that did have that effect on me during this election season: the conflation of the word socialism with communism. I teach a course on the Cold War, so I’ve done an immense amount of reading on the subject over the last few years. That doesn’t make me an expert (although it does make me an excellent Jeopardy contestant!), but it does make me more informed than the average person, and apparently than many of the pundits who are broadcast into millions of homes each day. Packaged as information, or “news,” propaganda is more an appropriate term. Invoking fear of communist totalitarianism as a way to guarantee another four years of loyal listeners/viewers is frustrating to witness. On the other hand, the Left, pushing fear of oligarchy to charge up the “99%,” is just as irritating. With all of the theatrics and high emotion, none of the cacophony brings any real value to the conversation. But I write this not to complain, as it is the nature of the democratic process. I write only to remind us that when information becomes a branded commodity, public discourse becomes very murky. And while I again completely defend the rights of these people and their networks to say and spin whatever they believe will accomplish their goals, it does put the onus on us to be informed consumers. I am hopeful that with the election now over, and the emotionally charged commercials off the air, most of us can get back to the business of pursuing Life, Liberty and Happiness, and maybe re-friending some of our former Facebook friends.

I leave you with some words of wisdom from those who came before us. The first, another by Winston Churchill, explains “The inherent vice of capitalism is the unequal sharing of blessings; the inherent virtue of socialism is the equal sharing of miseries.” Finally, some good advice from our forefather Thomas Jefferson: “I never considered a difference of opinion in politics, in religion, in philosophy, as cause for withdrawing from a friend.” Peace.


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