Let Freedom Ring

On this holiday, our national Independence Day, we who cherish the principles and the accomplishments of the world’s freest republic must face the horrible truth: The United States of America, beacon of hope and example to all who would rid the world of oppression and injustice, has lost its standing as the planet’s shining exemplar of liberty. In many ways, our beloved country has become as bad as the nations we seek to instruct. 

Our democratic government, installed in two elections that will forever have asterisks of doubt beside them in the history books, has slowly transformed itself into a monarchy. The divine right of kings, not popular will, seems to be its guiding philosophy. With frightening disregard for our constitution — the same document our President and his cronies swore to uphold and defend — George W. Bush, Dick Cheney, Albert Gonzales, Donald Rumsfeld, et. al., have steadily usurped the powers formerly promised to Congress and the judiciary and turned America into a badly behaved beast on the verge of devouring itself, a country that more and more resembles an Orwellian police state and less and less a thriving democracy. The current administration feels itself entitled to abuse prisoners and monitor telephone calls without a warrant. It believes secretly snooping through the citizenry’s bank records and library borrowings is not only justifiable but necessary. And torture is OK.

Due process doesn’t always lead to justice. Indeed, it’s often a charade that camouflages profound injustice. But it’s an inherent part of our national identity. Everyone — rich or poor, white or black, Christian or Muslim — deserves equal treatment under the law, equal opportunity to defend himself in a court of law, and equal protection from those forces that would deprive him of “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.” Sadly, our leaders no longer think this is so, mostly, we are reminded, because these constitutional guarantees are terribly inconvenient and cumbersome in the fictional “war on terrorism.” Alas, democracy is inconvenient and cumbersome, the messy alternative to a smoothly functioning dictatorship. We should be honored to do not what is expedient, but what is right.

While we Americans enjoy our beer and barbecue, our friends and families and fireworks, let us remember what has made our country great and worthy of celebration. And let us hope that Independence Day inspires us to let freedom ring in every precinct of the globe.

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