Friday, July 03, 2009

Let Freedom Ring!

I'm not a particularly political person. I have my political beliefs that I hold somewhat dear. My allegiance to the Los Angeles Dodgers is stronger than any loyalty I feel to a political party. I'm also not a cheerleader for my country. My degree is in U.S. History so I'm more than aware of the atrocities committed by this country. But I'm also aware of our great triumphs and the perseverance of our citizens.

I'm reading 1776 by David McCullough right now, apropos considering the time of year. It is truly a marvel to read about how ill-prepared and the disadvantage this country had in its fight for freedom from Great Britain. England at the time was probably the most powerful nation on earth with a massive navy and an army of well-trained troop. George Washington, on the other hand, had generals who received their military training from books they read in their spare time from their other professions. He had an army of men who had never had a day of training in their life. They had only their passion and their belief in what the country should be. They sacrificed more than their lives. They sacrificed their livelihoods, their families and the security of being part of a powerful nation.

If you read the text of the Declaration of Independence, you can see how it encourages rebellion when the government is not doing as it should. As Americans, we are expected to complain about our government when we see an injustice. We are expected to take to the streets and show our displeasure, it is encouraged. To maintain liberty, we must be vigilant and outspoken. It is our responsibilities as citizens to protect the freedom and rights of all individuals, whether we agree with them or not.

I suppose this concept has hit home hard with the Iranian election. Reading about the horrors perpetrated against people for exercising their opinions is mind blowing. In American, bitching about the government is a national sport. It doesn't matter who is in office, there is going to be pages of written word published complaining about them. And if you've ever been to D.C., you can see a protest everyday. We can do this with impunity. You can go out and rally a crowd, screaming to the hills about how vile your government is, how they are responsible for everything bad in the world and not worry about being tried for it. It has been tried, the Alien and Sedition Acts of 1798 tried to silence protests of the government. It only lasted a couple of years and is considered a black mark on our history. As you can imagine, it was wildly unpopular and it led to a change in government at the next election.

Aung San Suu Kyi also brings to mind the freedoms we take for granted in this country. The Burmese politician has sacrificed so much for her country. When she was elected prime minister, instead of taking her rightful position, the military junta nullified the results and arrested her. Can you imagine if we did that in this country? While the circumstances of her situation is horrifying, her sacrifice is what hits home with me. She has been separated from her family for years. Her husband died and she was unable to see him. She could leave Burma, the government would be thrilled to see her go. But if she left, she could never return. Her love of her people and her dedication to democracy in Burma overrides everything else. Would you be able to do that? Fortunately, you don't have to because it was done 223 years ago by the original citizens of this country already did. By declaring independence, they were risking their lives and their livelihoods. They lost family and the security of being part of an empire.

I hope you enjoy today. Enjoy the fireworks, the hot dogs, the parades. But keep in mind how hard fought our freedom was and how so many others in the world are still fighting.

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