Many in America are misguided into thinking they have a right to say and act as they chose.

They are individuals with freedom of expression, even to the point where they consider themselves law enforcers. However, 17-year-old Kyle Rittenhouse had no right to take a gun he did not own or have license to use and go across a state line into an area of strife. What seems more like an act of bravado had preempted a sense of responsibility for one’s actions, which in this case resulted in two deaths.

Another detrimental example of individual expression of freedom is the public comment by a local law officer that people should disregard the city law about wearing masks. This is an overstep of his authority and will undermine any confidence that the public will be protected by the law.

These are only two of many examples that seem to have divided our country. The pandemic, mistrust in monitored election results, violence in our streets and against our Capitol, disregard or misrepresentation of scientific information continue to affect us in divisive ways. Political, civil and environment strife are ever-present news items.

We in America seem to have lost our sense of unity in favor of individual freedom and its unchecked expression. In doing so, we have lost the sense of a collective freedom: the societal freedom that liberates parents from fear of their children’s safety in school; the confidence that loved ones will return from shopping or peaceful demonstration, that guns do not become arbiters of justice.

Rather than view Americans as individuals with unchecked freedoms, I prefer to consider ourselves as unique, with individual gifts that can add to a unified fabric of society. Our primitive ancestors learned that survival required they live together in communities with a common, rather than individual, purpose. Viable societies need to encourage dialog over monologue, listening over speaking, compromise over dominance, and attempts to understand rather than convince. Else, we will remain divided.