With Freedom Comes Responsibility!

I had left Hyderabad at 9:00 pm in the evening on my way to Mumbai in order to connect to a 2:00 am international flight to Frankfurt to get home to Toronto. I finally arrived at Frankfurt 8:00 in the morning. With only 1.5 hours between connecting flights, I rushed to the lounge to take a shower, make a change of clothes and have some breakfast. As I entered the sitting area, it was then the news of the earthquake and tsunami in Japan reached me. As I watched the TV monitor, I like everyone else was shocked!

My daughter Joanna is in Mokpo, South Korea. My son Richard was in Chile. My wife Linda was at home in Oakville, but with the time difference I was not able to connect with anyone. My immediate concern was Joanna. I didn’t know if the earthquake and/or tsunami had affected S. Korea in any way, and of course of greater concern was the potential risk arising from the damage to the nuclear reactors. Upon arrival at Pearson International Airport at 1:00 pm, I finally was able to connect with Linda, and she assured me that Joanna was fine. However, much to my surprise, I was told Richard was being evacuated out of the Chilean village he was staying, and directed to higher ground to avoid the danger from a potential tsunami that was expected to reach the area at midnight. After much worry and continued loss of sleep, the warning for Chile had been lifted. I could finally relax that both kids were safe. Yes, my kids were safe, that’s all that matters. But as I watched the news, tens of thousands of people had died, hundreds of thousands of people left homeless, and a world in mourning, I felt helpless and sad. While my family was safe for now, I realized, the emotions I was carrying, was nothing compared to the mom or dad, the son or daughter, who had to face such tragedy was feeling.

I was left thinking how can I help? What can I do? I had this driving need to contribute in some concrete way but was left doing what most of us might do, texting on my cell phone a number that automatically contributes a small amount of money to a charitable fund for relief efforts to those hurt or displaced by such a awful circumstance. But certainly I could do more!

Several weeks have passed now. Other events crowd the news. The situation in Japan remains grave, the death toll rises, the threat of a nuclear meltdown increases, and the needs of hundreds of thousands homeless and hungry Japanese grow. But our attention has been redirected to a war in Libya, a war ignited for control of the country and for a dream of democratic freedom. Other wars continue, some costing the West $2 billion a week, but to be truthful I struggle with the reason, why, the purpose, the need for such destruction (with this type of destruction not being natural but man made).

But then another war (albeit peaceful) broke out at home, with a federal election being forced upon us in Canada (an emotional war).  This will be our fifth election in seven years. Another $300 million dollars spent. A billion dollars expensed over seven years. While I appreciate our democratic freedom to vote, and will do so at the polling booth in a few weeks, I can’t help but question why?  Why so many elections? Why such uncertainty? Why such waste?

Our governments (plural) report there is no extra money to address the growing needs of the infirmed, the unemployed, the widowed, and the homeless or to invest in new jobs. There is no money for schools, health care, transportation and seniors. However, over $1,000,000,000 has been spent to finance five elections in seven years. With election campaigns come promises of expenditures in areas where previously there was no money available.

So I am brought back again to my question: Why?

When we decided to begin writing this column several years ago, I was told it cannot be used for any political reason or influence. So I won’t.

What I will say is that with freedom comes responsibility. Our governments seem to have lost sight of that. I hope we don’t. I hope that when we are asked to vote, to exercise our democratic freedom, that so many are fighting to obtain, we as CMAs show leadership and understand our responsibility that is attached to that freedom.

Get out and vote! Please!