There is something about traversing the still very “wild, wild West” for 10 days that sets the mind a thinking. The beauty of the National parks is unsurpassed and we have key individuals and political leaders to thank who had the foresight to preserve millions of acres of our land in their pristine, natural state. One cannot not possibly walk this land, and drink in the beauty, without being thankful for the privilege and freedom to enjoy our beautiful nation. It certainly has led me to ponder the meaning of 'freedom' on the eve of July 4th.
Our Founding Fathers were willing to pay a significant cost in terms of lost lives and risk to win the fight of taxation without representation. Today,less than half of those eligible to vote for their representatives bother to vote. Effectively, we have tax policy set by a minority of our citizens with a majority not believing that they have the ability to have an impact. Six months from now, it appears that the tax cuts put in place by President Bush will be allowed to expire and all federal government programs will be proportionately reduced because our representatives cannot or will not agree on tax policy that will allow the government to function in a more rational and thoughtful manner. This is disturbing.
And, what about freedom of speech, freedom of the press, and the right to bear arms -- equally important to the Founding Fathers and citizens of the United States over two hundred years ago? How are we exercising those freedoms? Turn on any news station, and you are bombarded with “talking heads” saying anything they want. Issues are exaggerated, shouting, vulgarity, interrupting and gross distortions are par for the course and override anyone’s ability to discern the truth. It appears that we are just trying to out scream the opposition. Is anybody listening?
What about the right to bear arms? When did this become the right to gun down anybody for any reason? Oozies are a bit different than the arms of yester-year. It is no longer a matter of self-protection and more of "what is mine is mine" and I have the right to take it with force and blatant disregard for human life.
Is freedom being exercised when a large percentage of young, black males are incarcerated before age 30 and the number of prisons built are determined by black male's 3rd grade test scores? Is freedom exercised when gay men and woman are not allowed to marry because they have chosen to love a same sex partner? Are we free when big business, the 1%, controls wealth, political access, and governmental policy in favor of their interests without regard to the remaining 99%?
And what has happened to a large proportion of the 99% who have allowed themselves to be dulled or bullied by the incessant, illogical, and rampant rhetoric? Apathy has become an abdication of the right to exercise the privilege to vote. The 1% will always win if the 99% do not take responsibility. Protest is one tier, but we also need to organize, contribute thoughts, energy, money, and learn to dialogue in a civil, factual and compelling manner that is heard by others. Our voices do count. And our actions will make a difference. Similar to Rockefeller who purchased 24,000 acres of land back in the 30’s and then donated it back to the federal government to preserve our land, we have intelligent, wealthy, thoughtful men and woman committed to preserving our country and contributing. Washington is broken. But, we are not. Our inaction is just as detrimental as Washington’s inability to listen, compromise and act.
How do we celebrate the 4th of July, our country's hard earned independence, in a climate of mistrust, self-centeredness, and political mayhem? We remember what we fought for, we exercise the privilege to vote, we appreciate the incredible freedoms we do experience living in America, and we
stand up and make our voices heard.