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The International Writers Magazine
: Free Speech - Free Country

Brodie Parker

There are perhaps no sins in America today greater than those of silence, ignorance and complacency. These sins are compounded by the context in which they are committed. The freedom of speech infused into our culture is in immediate danger of atrophy from lack of use.

Over the last decade we have witnessed atrocity after unspeakable atrocity; the Columbine High School shooting, the Oklahoma City bombing, the fall of the twin towers and a president who misled his people into a war and who is unrepentant about doing so. Yet far too many Americans remain silent. The voice of the people must be used viciously, savagely, and it must be made to be heard. We have to use the rights we have while we still have them, not only to preserve them, but also to remind ourselves why they are there.

The freedom to make yourself heard is one of our most basic and cherished ideals; failure to use it is tantamount to being anti-American. Not that I enjoy listening to people blather on in righteous political outrage. On the contrary, I find most of what I read and hear to be uninformed and not worth heeding. Some, but not all, so I encourage it. Why? Because it’s necessary; we have to put up with the garbage to get the gems. The long term effects of disuse are/will be disastrous to the spirit of America’s foundation. The only possible outcome of ignoring our right to a voice is that it will be lost, and will have to be won all over again. If history is any indicator, such a struggle would be bloody and unpleasant; just ask Louis XVI, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., or Anne Frank. America is alive with the written and spoken word, but it must be much more so if our freedom is to endure. When you consider the prices that so many have paid to give us what we have, the sin of silence appears all the more obscene.

The sin of ignorance is in and of itself an abomination, which has been embraced by so many Americans that it has decimated our culture and shamed us globally. It is important to note the difference between uninformed and ignorant. "Ignorant" implies an intentional unawareness, as in willingly ignoring a fact, whereas "uninformed" simply means not possessing specific knowledge. In a country with a literacy rate of 97%, there is no excuse for this sin. In a society where information is more plentiful and readily available than at any other time in recorded history, there is no excuse for ignorance. Everything you ever wanted to know and much, much more is out there waiting to be found.

Complacency feeds off of silence and ignorance. It begins when you place too much faith in the leaders. It fills them with a false sense of self importance when they assume the power we give them. We sin in complacency when we arbitrarily choose our leaders. True, the choices are often a decision between the lesser of two evils, but though there may not be anyone worth voting for, there is always someone to vote against. The government of this country belongs to us. Not just to George W. Bush or Dick Cheney, or to any one person more than another. The people need to remind their leaders of this.

"...what country can preserve its liberties if their rulers are not warned from time to time that their people preserve the spirit of resistance?"
Thomas Jefferson

I have been as guilty of these sins as anyone, but our absolution lies in taking back what is ours. It is attainable by simply taking responsibility for the political authority you exercise when you vote. Forgiveness is in the libraries and coffee houses and on uncensored airwaves all around us. The price for it is that we must expend the effort to attain it, and this cost seems negligible when compared with the wages of these sins. We have the freedom for now. It has already been purchased with the blood of patriots, and our failure to live up to their sacrifices is a slap in the face of their memories. The people’s America must be tempered with reason, rationality and wisdom. We have to arm ourselves with the facts and fight no less valorously than those who have come before; we owe it to them and to ourselves and to those who will follow.

© Brodie Parker March 2004

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