This week we celebrate 231 years of Independence from Great Brit-ain and bask in the glory of the Freedoms that we are afforded. In years past, we may have taken our Freedoms that we enjoy as a matter of fact, giving them little thought as we spend the day barbecuing, going to the beach or taking in a ball game. But all that changed with the terrorist attacks of 9/11.
On 9/11, we were shocked into reality and our Freedoms, that we took for granted, we found out were not Free. We were reminded that Freedom takes vigilance. The character of our lives changed forever on that day. Changes took place then and are taking place now. Change was necessary to ensure our safety. Some are obvious, such as the necessary inspection at airport terminals and the tightening of our border security, and not only along our southern border but along our Canadian border. Other changes have occurred, and probably more profound, yet not as obvious.
Not only is vigilance and sacrifice necessary to thwart attacks upon our country but we need to need to stay vigilante in regards to the erosion of our personal freedoms, among those key rights: “freedom of speech, assembly, and privacy; the right to counsel and due process in judicial proceedings; and protection from unreasonable searches and seizures.” Those are the Freedoms that make this country what it is today, and are also where some of the more profound changes are occurring and have been coming under scrutiny by the Supreme Court.
At La Prensa San Diego, we are constantly reminded of our freedoms and how lucky we are to be able to enjoy them. As a minority owned newspaper, we are afforded the opportunity, through the International Vistor Leadership Program sponsored by the US. Department of State, to speak with a great many different people from around the world. Not only do we enjoy the Freedom to publish this newspaper. We share our experiences and minority reality with these visitors who come looking to see how we do what we do and find out if we truly have such Freedoms.
This past Tuesday, we hosted five elected representatives from the African state of Uganda at our offices to discuss the freedom of the press, minority politics, and the role of our newspaper in this society.
With this visit by these parliamentarians we were talking with individuals who, for most of their lives, have never realized any of these Freedoms, in particular, Freedom of the Press. Uganda is a country that has had a history of dictatorial rule, most recently highlighted by Academy Awarding winning move “The Last King of Scotland,” for which Forest Whitaker portrayed the brutal dictator Idi Amin Dada during the ‘70s when hundreds of thousands of Ugandans were brutally killed by this dictator.
To this day, Freedom of the press is not realized in Uganda, where the press is controlled by the government. With this background, we at La Prensa were sharing with them how we have the Freedom to publish every week and the opportunity to speak through the pages of our newspaper without fear of retribution. In talking with the Ugandans, this is a Freedom that they feel is not within their grasp, that the personal sacrifice is too great to achieve this goal. This served as a stark reminder for us of the Freedoms that we do have.
Uganda is not the only country that we have talked with that is not afforded Freedom of the Press. We have talked with several countries where individuals have come to the offices of La Prensa to find out how we are able to express our point of view. They have come from countries where dictatorial rule has denied them the opportunity of Freedom of the Press.
It is in talking with these representatives from Uganda, a country that is trying to become more Democratic, we realize how fortunate we are. We are reminded that we need to stay vigilante here in the United States and pay attention to changes when they occur such as wire tapping and the right to privacy, the right to due process, and the right to assembe. We also need to stay vigilante and demand accountability from our leadership, most recently with our Vice President denying access to his records claiming he is not required to disclose his information. These of course are national issues.
There are also local issues and rights that we as individuals have to continually fight for and stay vigilant about. If we had been more vigilant about the pension fund issue perhaps the City of San Diego would not be in the mess it finds itself in now and services to the citizens would not have to be curtailed: eminent domain issues, immigration issues such as the City of Escondido trying to deny housing to immigrant workers, human rights issues and the list goes on.
Our Freedoms are spelled out in the Constitution and in the Bill of Rights but it is up to us as individuals to fight for these rights and stay vigilant whenever there is an attempt to change these rights. The United States is a Free country because its people stood up and fought for those rights, rights that we have to stand up for every day and continually fight for. That is how we stay Free.