May 2, 2003

Opinion

Letting Freedom Ring for our Children

By Ernie McCray

It is being said that the Iraqi people are free and that our president and our troops and the American people who supported them are the ones who set them free. And I’m thinking: Wait a minute. Are we now, as a society, to call ourselves liberators when the reality is we don’t even appreciate our own precious liberties?

I mean, come on, here we are, residents of the Land of Liberty, citizens of the USA, and we rarely debate the issues of the day. And healthy debate and the act of thinking critically should be like breathing in a free society if you asked me. In a free society people would embrace, rather than resist, their natural human instinct to look at one’s environment and reflect on it and ask the questions that need to be asked. Questions like:  “How come my dollar doesn’t go very far?” or “Could this have possibly, like the man said, been a ‘fictitious’ war?”

But we, so blessed to live in a free society, would rather question each other than question authority, especially, of late, the proof being the disdainful attitude we’ve shown those among us who protested the war. My, what an abuse of our rights and freedom. In Saddam Hussein’s universe anyone who was bold enough to protest or to cry out for peace would be silenced.

But here, on our shores, we stifle our own freedom of speech. We attack our brothers and sisters who dare to dissent. We’re tyrants to ourselves. Let somebody contemplate a peaceful world and we won’t buy their CDs. A couple of screen stars said “No!” to the war in Iraq and we boycott their movies.

We’ve broken ourselves down, overnight, into two categories: those who supported the war are patriots and those who didn’t are “aiding and abetting” our enemies - as though Saddam Hussein has ever given a damn about what any of us thinks.

Now the evil one’s gone and we’ve got to carry on and get past this divide because our children are taking it all in. They’ve got the flag waving down and they can chant “USA! USA!” with the loudest of us in their own special innocent way. But when it’s their day what other of our mores and philosophies will we have passed their way?

It’s our children who will relate, down the line; to the Iraqi children we’ve seen on our TV screens and in our newspapers and magazines. How much of the emptiness and fear that we saw reflected in their eyes will they maintain? Who, in their world, can ease their pain considering that when their freedom was being won they were holding tight to their parents for dear life? How many years does one carry the scars of seeing their homes and their neighborhoods reduced to a heap and having to survive with little or no water to drink and barely a morsel of food to eat? Will the noise from the looting in the streets ever completely cease in their minds? How impressed will they be by what they see and hear, the “liberation versus occupation” debates, the declarations of holy wars and scores to be settled in a spirit of hate? Will any voices of reason and hope eventually soothe these children’s battered psyches?

Oh, it is these children who will, when their time comes, carry the torch of whatever evolves from Operation Iraqi Freedom.

When our children are grown their society will still be dealing intensely with the Middle East and other regions of a troubled world. And it would seem to me that for them to do so adequately and for them to survive and flourish in the future we need to show them how. They need to see us using our rights and freedom to find ways to love and respect and to listen to each other here in our own nation as well as seeing us reach out to the world at large with compassion and empathy and diplomacy. If they are witnesses to us making sincere attempts to understand the world and share its resources, they just might, down the line, discover never thought of ways and means for making the world more accommodating for all humankind. Such a wonderful gift to them, such a priceless legacy, would give true honor to the privilege we enjoy as citizens of the Land of the Free.

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