Freedom has been ringing in our ears more than two hundred years and it seems that for some, the sweet music has been reduced to a ho hum. Fourth of July parades have been declared “Right Wing” by no less esteemed an institution than Harvard University, our elected officials are disrobing in alarming numbers (I solemnly swear that @Hopecutechick will not be tweeting photos of herself in her skivvies!) and public service seems to have been replaced by gobbling at the public trough.
Contrast that with the risks our Founding Fathers took to gain our independence: but for a few miraculous meteorological advantages here and there, the sacrifices of George Washington, John Adams and a host of other patriots, and a little self-serving help from the French in the nick of time, the signers of our Declaration of Independence would have been summarily hung and we might all be eating black pudding and pig trotters.
Just in case freedom isn’t ringing your bell this holiday weekend, you might turn your thoughts to three folks who would probably give anything right now to be in our sweet land of liberty. My thoughts and prayers today are with them.
PFC Bergdahl was captured on July 18, 2009. and is the only known U.S. soldier to be in captivity in Afghanistan. The circumstances of his capture raise the possibility that he was in the process of deserting his unit when he was taken. The next day, a Fox News military analyst suggested that Bergdahl was “no hero”. Nonetheless, he remains in captivity. The Taliban has issued a number of videos in which Bergdahl appears, most recently in May, 2011. For more information on PFC Bergdahl, go to http://supportbowebergdahl.blogspot.com/. How to help free him? The only suggestion I could find was a recommendation to write your Congressmen/women and Senators to advocate for his release.
Manal al Sherif encouraged Saudi women to defy the country’s unspoken ban that prohibits women from driving and was arrested behind the wheel in May. Her Facebook page entitled “Teach me how to drive so I can protect myself” was removed and al-Sherif was detained by the Saudi government. According to news accounts, she was released on May 30, having signed an agreement that silenced her from making public statements. An insightful article on the subject can be found here: http://www.csmonitor.com/Commentary/Editorial-Board-Blog/2011/0606/Honk-if-you-support-Saudi-women-drivers. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton voiced her support for Saudi women on June 21st. There is an online petition calling for the State Department to condemn the arrests of Saudi women who drive at http://www.change.org/petitions/tell-the-state-department-to-condemn-the-detention-of-women-drivers. Another interesting resource for commentary on women in Saudi Arabia can be found here: http://saudiwoman.wordpress.com/
Artist Ai Weiwei is just one of many who have been detained for speaking out against the Chinese government. Activists, Christians and children represent the broad spectrum of targets of human rights abuses that run rampant in China. Weiwei was released on June 22, saying that he “is forbidden to say too much to reporters.
This fact sheet from the Robert F. Kennedy Mermorial Center for Human Rights provides a sobering score sheet on abuses by the Chinese government: http://www.christusrex.org/www1/sdc/hr_facts.html. How to help? Amnesty International is one option: http://www.amnesty.org/en
I am grateful this holiday weekend to live in a country where I can vote, own property and drive a car, unlike women in Saudi Arabia. I am grateful that I can speak out against my government without being tossed in jail. And I am very, very grateful to all the servicemen and women of the United States military, who risk their lives and their freedom so that I can enjoy my own…and not take it for granted.
A list of charities that support U.S. troops can be found at http://www.charitynavigator.org/index.cfm?bay=content.view&cpid=531
“There is danger from all men. The only maxim of a free government outght to be to trust no man living with power to endanger the public liberty.” – John Adams