Saturday, November 05, 2005

Freedom Rings More Loudly than We Think

Most Americans are proud of their freedom, when they think about it (others would rather be "Red than dead"). Our ancestors fought long and hard for freedom. We seem to feel it is our predestined right. When misguided judges on the Supreme Court take our freedom and our property away with silly decisions, we complain loudly. But when freedom is discussed for other countries and other peoples, some Americans are not so sure. They seem to be "pulling up the ladder." That is, the idea that once we have climbed the ladder to gain entrance, we pull up it up so no one else can get in.

It is an elitist idea that somehow Americans are the only ones who can handle freedom, that the "less free people" are in some way, akin to savages. We used to hear this idea expressed about civil rights for everyone. Perhaps you recall the cliche' "We're not ready for that." It meant, among other things, that the elite was not ready to lower its standards for what it thought were a people slightly above savagery. And it sure as hell meant that they were not about to lower the ladder they had so carefully pulled up behind them. History showed that they were wrong; it reinforced the idea that nobody was truly free unless everybody was free.

The desire for freedom appears to be inborn, not just in Americans but in all people. Mikhail Gorbachov of the late USSR found that you cannot give people a little bit of freedom, you have to give them complete freedom or nothing at all.

Now we are attempting to find freedom and democracy for people in the Mideast. This is partly for selfish reasons, since democratic nations do not often declare war on each other. However, for some Americans the desire to help others obtain freedom is more than that; it is a moral imperative. Still others have decided that people in the Mideast "are not ready for that."

This elitist attitude that would deny freedom to millions ignores the fact the the time is ripe. Freedom is all around Mideastern people in the form television, radio and books. The appeal of living in the eleventh century has to be losing its charm.

Tribalism is offered as an excuse for the failure of people's attempts to gain freedom in the Mideast; but we must not overlook the tribalism that we had to overcome in America. Not only did we have exclusive religious factions in each colony, but also we had ruralism tribes in the South against industrial tribes of the North. These latter differences festered for almost ninety years and finally blew up into Civil War. Why is it that we can endure civil war in America but other nations may not?

It is not the "white man's burden" to care for people in the Mideast, but it may well be the free world's burden to get them started on the road. Once they taste freedom, they can do the rest.

Freedom is a universal desire, not one that stops at our borders. It is infectious, and when the bells of freedom ring, which we are so pleased to sing about, the sound of those bells carries around the world.

1 comment:

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