Rules for Living in a Community (or your “freedom” ends where my safety begins)

Consider this: When you live in a place alone, you need no rules—or you make them, discard them as you choose. You may not think about rules! You drink from the milk bottle/box or eat the ice cream from a quart container, return it to the freezer—who needs a bowl or cup? You make the bed or don’t, wash the dishes or don’t. You go to the bathroom when you choose, close the door if you choose, run downstairs dressed, partially dressed, or nude. You keep the house as warm or cold as you like. You select the food and cook or don’t cook what you want or when you want. You turn the lights on when you choose, keep them on as long as you choose. You play the music, television as loud as you want. You select, record the programs you want. You stay on the computer for as long as you want. You stay out as late or return home as early as you like.


However, if one person moves into that house—regardless of how much you care about that person, want that person to be there, the age, gender, or ability of that person—life changes, possibly for the better. You don’t drink from the milk bottle/box, eat ice cream from its container, fail to wash the dishes regularly or alter bathroom patterns, dress, at least somewhat. You may have to change the house temperature, the food you eat, when you cook. You may have to turn the lights on or off earlier or later. You may have to adjust the volume, watch, or not watch different programs. You may not be able to get on or off the computer when you choose. You may have to return home earlier or later.


If you add a third person, again regardless of how much you care about that person, want that person to be there, the age, gender, or ability of that person—your life changes. Now consider our country. Think about how life changed for the persons here. Think about what happened as more people came from more places. Remember, the Mayflower got here in 1620, but the USA came into being in 1776—and you know about some of the changes that took place here, England, and elsewhere.


I have asked you to consider the above because now our country has more than 330,000,000 persons with all kinds of backgrounds and cultures from all over the world with its population of almost 8,000,000,000. “Attention must be paid,” as Willy Loman says, ought to be paid as Georgia McDade says. If not, problems are inevitable.


There was a time when the country had few people and, therefore, few rules. But as more and more people arrived—regardless of the means—we had to make changes. It took us until 1887 to form the Interstate Commerce Act; businesses have been regulated so much that we had to make rules/laws to deregulate some of them! Do you know that once upon a time there were no dividing lines on the highway? (Yes, there were no cars, once upon a time.) There were no highways! There were no driver licenses! There was a time when “gun control” was not in our vocabulary. As the population increased, more attention had to be paid to health. Depending on the source, as far back as the year 900, persons were working on what we label vaccinations. (Check out the contribution of the Chinese and the African Onesimus to vaccinology.) Eventually much of the world came to see the value of vaccination: for the safety of the individual and the safety of the community. Merely a fraction of Americans was not vaccinated as children. To travel in many countries, vaccinations are mandatory.


You have most likely guessed where I am going. The community—we—must be protected, sometimes from ourselves. So, just as persons who once lived alone lose some of their freedom when another person joins their household, we lose some of our freedoms—give up doing everything as we wish to do it—because we are in a community. We need to do a better job of protecting the environment—Earth is our only home! We need to support rules that allow all citizens to vote, make voting easier rather than more difficult—if we want to make our democracy better, closer to a “a more perfect union.” We need to do a better job of controlling guns—all of us are at risk. We need to do a better job of protecting the mentally ill—they and we are at risk. We need to get vaccinated—all of us are at risk. Scientists know much, and they are learning more. At this point, the best they have is vaccines. If we don’t use them, we put ourselves and others at risk. In many instances, some of us are in riskier positions than others, but as good community members, we ought to be concerned with the safety of all of us; many, perhaps all, of the nation’s problems could be solved if we admitted solving problems helps all of us, though not necessarily equally. Take the shot for the community; we can do little good when we are physically unhealthy.


I hope 2021 was better than 2020 and you had a wonderful holiday season, that you can keep the spirit of that season throughout the year. I pray that 2022 will give you the best—that which hurts you nor other members of the community. And please remember that the world is the community.


~Georgia S. McDade


Georgia S. McDade, a charter member of the African-American Writers’ Alliance, began regularly reading her writing in public in 1991. She occasionally writes for South Seattle Emerald and regularly writes for Leschinews. With Jim Cantú, she co-hosts Hearts and Soul for KVRU. Although she has published four volumes of poetry called Outside the Cave and a book of prose called Observations and Revelations: Stories, Sketches, and Essays, she is working to complete another book of poetry, two biographies, and a book of criticism on the works of Jessie Fauset. Check out her website at georgiasmcdade.org.