Monday, July 4, 2011

The Hope For Freedom

Holidays celebrating the Independence of any nation are BIG, loud, and sensational. 

However, with the country at war, high gas prices, and the ruin that was once an economy, hard truths give people a moment to pause and think about what it means to be American in this country today. 

When Americans claim to love America and then detest most of the people they meet on the street, you have to stop a moment and wonder. 

Will Rogers, a 20th century American legend, with his world-class rope trick, wisdom, and inspiring wit, took what was relevant at the time and whittled it down to a few clear sentences. He said, "I never met a person I didn't like." 

And while you could argue that the American of today is clearly different from the American of the 1920s and 30s, that perhaps Will would change his mind were he here with us today in a time when people pride themselves not on being hospitable, but rather savvy technological giants in a world of social networking, the same insecurities, dreams for our children, and our children's children still remain. 

On a day like the 4th of July, Freedom is the buzz word of the day, but life is all about digital literacy. Perhaps if we just revived a modern version of Will's observational wit, we'd be far better off in a world filled with ignorance, intolerance, and the eternal quest for faster processors in the hands of people who claim that they don't have a clue as to what they want out of life, but demand that they still want it immediately. 

While ignorance can't be helped, even among the educated, an observation Will like to describe as, "There's nothing as stupid as an educated man when you get him off the subject he was educated in,"  there's unity in liking your fellow man (e.g., person) - even in the fast-paced global world of today where you'll still get run over if you're not moving fast enough. 

There's wisdom when you look at the challenges of life and still find a way to live it peacefully. In a country where the prefix "pre" brings people and objects together before their anticipated release date (pre-release, pre-view, pre-party), pre-judging others before you get to know them takes the liberties this nation bestows upon its citizens and symbolically flushes them down the drain. 

While it could be argued that we're "free" to pre-judge, free to dislike, or free to differentiate based on someone's gender, religion, or ethnic background (not legally, of course, that would be discrimination), it seems to me like we're relinquishing our freedom to be by limiting the freedom of others. 
Voltaire said, "I detest what you write, but I would give my life to make it possible for you to continue to write."  
(Je déteste ce que vous écrivez, mais je donnerai ma vie pour que vous puissiez continuer à écrire)

Much like the spirit of the French Revolution lives on in the hearts and minds of the French, we Americans are still commemorating our own version of liberté (liberty), égalite (equality), fraternité (fraternity or union). No matter how you define freedom, no one defines it as being the recipient of persecution or hatred from your fellow human being. 

Today marks a milestone in the philosophy of freedom...
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