Monday, June 22, 2009

America's Legacy- Freedom to the Max

America’s Legacy- Freedom to the Max

            As the United States of America reaches the ripe old age of 233, we are beginning to move from the status of young, struggling country to older and more established. True, there are countries that have been around much longer, but so many across the world change their style of government so frequently, that their identities stay just ahead of the World Atlas publishers. So where are we now that we’re all grown up?

            Recently, an event in Little Rock that made national headlines seemed to characterize the State of our Union in a nutshell. As the gunfire died down, and the official mourning is over, we can reflect on what it all means.

            A young man was killed one day while taking a break from his daily job at a non-descript strip mall. We hear about workplace violence all too often. But what made this situation unique is the type of work the young man was engaged in, and the reason given by his admitted killer.

            This particular victim and his friend were on a temporary assignment that probably seemed very safe to them. They were working as recruiters for our nation’s all-volunteer army. The fact that we are not currently drafting young people to serve is rather unique in itself. The people of our nation have the right to choose whether they want to devote their lives to defending our freedoms. In fact, the government offers attractive incentives that make it seem like a very worthwhile vocation. So, on this particular day, men who could very well have been traveling through mine-fields on the other side of the world were enjoying a cigarette break not far from where they grew up.

            Enter the other young man. Here was a seemingly normal person who has smiling pictures in his family albums like the rest of us. From all indications, he had the support of a loving family. But, in a country where each person is free to choose his own definition of God, he had searched for and found a religion that was a huge departure from the way he was raised. So enamored with this new way of life that he even changed his name, he exercised another freedom, and traveled to a far away country to study further. This, his family said, is where he really changed, and his interest became fanaticism.

            On this particular early summer day, he had a statement to make. So, he brought the violence of war home, and chose his targets solely based on the uniforms they wore. How ironic that without the freedoms of the country he apparently now hates, he probably wouldn’t have been allowed to have the weapons he used. The young men he shot had dedicated themselves to defending these freedoms for all citizens of this country.

            The irony continued at the funeral for the Private who lost his life that day. The right of free speech and the right of assembly authorizes a certain group of people who travel to military funerals to demonstrate their beliefs. Their slogans and signs seem very inappropriate to the rest of us. In fact, laws have been passed to be sure that they cannot get too close to the grieving family. But, still they come. If, instead of restricting them, we totally forbid their protests, we could be setting an unwanted precedent. The voice of the minority must be allowed, no matter how distasteful it is to the rest of us.

            Fortunately, the family of someone who has passed away also has the right to plan a funeral, and invite anyone they wish to share in their tribute. So, another group has become a welcome sight at military rites. This bunch, riding motorcycles and sporting American flags, give the soldier and his family the respect and attention they deserve. In other countries, the collision of these two groups might cause violence, but over the past few years, these occasions have developed into a new tradition, uniquely American.      

            Under arrest for murder, the suspect is now demonstrating another ironic example of our freedoms. Concerned over the difficulty in holding an unbiased trial, the judge issued a gag order for the press. However, because we grant suspects certain freedoms before they are convicted, this one has called the press himself, going around the gag to express his side of the story. The judge finally had enough, and restricted those phone calls. The rest of us may be wishing this guy had the right to hang himself if he so chooses, but once again- America has to watch out for the rights of all of her citizens.

            So, Happy Birthday USA! We all hope that you continue to thrive. May all your battles be about how much freedom is too much. We wouldn’t have it any other way.



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