Indeed, while ideals reflected in our Declaration of Independence and Constitution have been challenged for centuries, the foundation of civic life in America continues to be the practice of responsible autonomy.
When we are not sufficiently prepared for this transformative responsibility—when we drift instead into a seemingly less demanding metaphysical parallel universe in our heads—we divorce ourselves from our in-the-world bodies and from the resources we need to create the life we want to live. Under these conditions life is not an opportunity. It is endured.
So, on many levels, what serves as an unforgiving master here in America is the demand to behave responsibly with respect to our autonomy and life. Our transformation is in our own hands. It remains in our behavioral ability to handle our freedom.
In fact, doesn’t every ordeal, every hurt, whether gut-wrenching (a big loss to a competitor, investments going south), heart-shattering (love gone astray or the death of a loved one) or morale-defeating (coming up short on dating apps or being betrayed by a friend), require us to recover ourselves because, well, who else is going to do it for us?
After all, it is only our own autonomy over which we have behavioral control. While we may want other adults—boss, employee, neighbor, mate, politician, grown children—to act in accordance with our wishes, they have the same rights that we do. The opportunity to create a life of their own design is in their hands though we may think we know better.