FREDERICK: Difficulties pale before freedom

Ryan Frederick

Anyone who has channel-surfed over to CNN or turned to the world section of the newspaper in the last couple of weeks has seen and read of the atrocities now occurring in Myanmar. We hear also of the massacre of innocents and of thousands starving in Darfur, of a North Korea where the military is regarded as the “supreme repository of power,” nations where women as well as religious and ethnic minorities have few or no rights – the list goes on.

How quickly we forget and take for granted those things which define us as Americans – and for which we ought always to be thankful.

We forget the Tuesday after the first Monday in November – that sacred day when we, as Americans, exercise the rights that others in this world would give their lives for.

We argue, dispute and hate each other because of our race, creed or any of our myriad diversities – forgetting the killing fields of Srebrenica and the furnaces of Auschwitz.

We burn our own flag in protest – forgetting what those Stars and Stripes meant to so many who sought liberty and opportunity here in the generations before us.

We complain at length about our elected officials – forgetting all those nations where totalitarianism reigns, and disagreement is criminal.

We are disgusted by the content of some books and offended by the content of some editorials – forgetting the bonfires of books deemed dangerous to other regimes, and the muzzling of so many voices at the hands of censors.

We think nothing of going to church on Sunday, or Mass on Saturday night, or to the mosque, synagogue, other house of worship or no house of worship – forgetting the corners of the world where such attendance is either banned or compulsory.

We swear at road construction – forgetting places like Sudan, Ethiopia or Rwanda, where governments have neither the resources nor the will to improve their people’s infrastructure.

We are horrified when an assailant is wounded by the police – forgetting all those regimes propped up by mass murder.

In short, we decry this country for what it is, or for what it has become – forgetting what it is not.

We Americans are by far the freest people to have ever walked the planet. We have no king, no fuhrer, emperor, commissar or premier – the very thought of such is and ought to be repulsive and sickening to us. No authority tells us what to say, how to vote, when and where to worship, what to wear, or how to parent, or can send our Congress home on a whim.

We may only have two political parties, but that is twice as many as China or Cuba. Nearly three-fourths of the Congress are Christians, but there are more minority religions – Muslims, Jews, Bhuddists – in our Congress than in the parliaments of Iran, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Jordan, Syria, Libya, and many other nations.

Only 90 women currently serve in our Congress, but they serve without any extra qualifications – no headscarves are required here. In many parts of this world, women are neither allowed to serve in the legislatures, or to vote.

Americans ought to be thankful for their freedom. We as a people – despite the faults inherent in ourselves, our government and our institutions – are the most democratic, most free, most liberty-enjoying people on the face of the Earth. We have found our freedoms by no mere accident, and to maintain them requires “we the People” to be ever more vigilant and watchful. It is true that, from time to time, our systems malfunction, and our justice miscarries. What separates us from much of the world, however, is that these malfunctions and miscarriages are not endemic to our system.

Ours is a freedom guarded not by razor wire and concrete, but one attended to daily by ideas: democracy, freedoms of speech, religion and the press, the rights to arm ourselves, to be secure in our persons, to be tried in a court of law – ideas in which we fervently believe, and have, for generations, sent our sons and daughters, brothers, sisters and friends to defend. All these and more are guaranteed to us as to no other people in the world.

Appreciate it. Stand up for it. Be thankful for it. Be an American.

– Ryan Frederick is a senior in

management from Orient.