What does freedom mean to you?
Whoever you are, wherever you're reading this, stop for a moment and think about this. What does freedom mean to you?
Freedom is what it's all about, isn't it? Freedom is what the Founding Fathers (and Mothers) were seeking when they crossed the Atlantic in wooden sailing ships to make a new home in a new world. Freedom is what they fought and died for in the revolt against the crown that began with the shot heard round the world at Lexington in 1775. Freedom for all people, regardless of race, is what divided our country in a bitter, bloody battle that nearly destroyed our nation less than a hundred years after its birth. The goal of protecting our freedom sent the doughboys off to war in Europe during "the war to end all wars" and the G.I.s to Europe and Asia a generation later during World Ware II. "If you love your freedom, thank a Vet."
Freedom is something to covet, to protect, to fight for, to die for.
Freedom is what we're all about here in the U.S. of A, isn't it? It's what we've got, what we've always had, what we've always had so much of that we didn't know what to do with it. So we take it for granted. We hardly give it a second thought. Freedom is woven into the fabric of American society. It is the very essence of America. It's what generation after generation of people from all corners of the earth have come to America to pursue. Freedom to live as you please, in peace, without being bothered. Freedom to think what you want. Freedom to speak your mind. Freedom to move about the country. Freedom to associate with whomever you choose. Freedom to work, to make a buck, to pursue opportunity and make something of yourself, no matter how humble your beginnings. Freedom to worship — Jesus, Allah, Jehovah, Buddha, Satan, the sun, Mother Earth, yourself. Or nothing at all.
Freedom to vote, to choose who will run your government and oversee how they do it. Freedom to know what they're doing, so you can hold them accountable. Freedom to criticize them if they don't do right by you. Freedom to turn them out of office if you see fit. Freedom to ask the government to do what you think is right. Freedom to demonstrate with a group of like-minded people for things you believe in.
Freedom to do nothing. Freedom to sit on your couch every night and watch sitcoms or sports on TV, to never think about freedom. You don't have to. You live in the USA, after all. Your freedom is in the bag. No need to pay attention to what elected officials are doing with your tax dollars. No need to be concerned about government controlling information about how it operates. No need to worry about your rights. You're so certain that all's well, you barely even have to worry about voting. (Fewer than a quarter of eligible voters will participate in next month's general election.)
What's it all about, anyway, this thing called freedom? Does it really matter to us today? Why do some people make such a fuss about these things — especially when we're engaged in a "permanent war" against an "invisible enemy" and some "sacrifice" of individual liberty is "necessary" to secure "freedom" not only for us, but for the rest of the world, to whom we will carry "democracy" (whether they want it or not).
Hey, if you've got nothing to hide, you've got nothing to worry about. Right?
I'm going to dedicate this space to freedom in the coming weeks. Because freedom is, in fact, what it's all about. And freedom is, in fact, in danger. Your freedom. Right here, right now. Your children's freedom, today, next year, 10 years from now. Freedom is under assault in the U.S. — by government at all levels. Even your local school board. But first and foremost, your freedom and your children's freedom are in jeopardy because of complacency, apathy, maybe, even, if the truth be told, a little ignorance — your assumption that it will always be there when you need it.
This newspaper, because we cherish freedom, is participating in the N.Y. Press Association's First Amendment Essay Contest. It's open to students in 11th and 12th grades. Go to our Web site for details at www.northshoresun.com. The grand-prize winner in this statewide contest gets $10,000, with cash prizes for local winners chosen from each school district by the Sun and one overall grand-prize winner who will represent the Sun in the state contest.
Encourage your high school age kids to log on and participate. The future of freedom is in their hands.
Ms. Civiletti's e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org.