As a veteran I appreciate the thanks I receive for my service. All veterans and military members, whether or not they have served in combat, have made sacrifices that those who haven’t served cannot fully comprehend or truly appreciate. But as you are expressing your thanks, one question enters my mind — “How are you exercising that freedom that you are thanking veterans and servicemen and women for defending?”
I see Americans incessantly talking about what a great nation we are and about our freedom yet I don’t see a lot of freedom in action. In the rankings of personal freedom among the industrialized nations of the world, we don’t even rank in the top 20. We talk the talk but we don’t walk the walk.
We live in fear, especially since September 11, 2001. On that day, we shook in fear and began handing our freedoms, one by one, to our government for the illusion of safety and security. Over a decade later, our fear has not diminished but our freedom has. As long as we live in fear, we are not free. It does not matter what we fear — terrorists, the government, the end of days, or our own mortality — if we are controlled by fear, we do not control our lives. Therefore, we have no freedom.
We need to throw off the shackles of our fear. We need to question authority, be it government, religion, corporations, the media, or any other authority. We need to challenge and remove laws that are unjust, arbitrary, serve no purpose, or make no sense. We should not believe anything just because some authority said it’s so. We need to find the truth, our own truth, and apply it.
As citizens, we need to be aware, educated and informed. Don’t vote for a candidate based on campaign rhetoric which is mostly lies and half-truths taken out of context. Don’t vote for a candidate because you’ve always been of his or her political party or because your family has always voted the party line. Question everything, learn everything you can about his character and vote your conscience.
Remember that elected officials work for you and represent your beliefs, your ideals and your interests. If they don’t then you need to vote the out of office and replace them with someone who does represent you. Let them know when they have strayed from their purpose, which is to serve their constituents, not the corporations and special interests. If you’re unhappy with their performance, do what’s necessary to correct the problem. Hold your government officials (elected and otherwise) accountable because they are accountable to the citizens. If their actions can’t withstand public scrutiny, then they don’t need to be holding public office.
While heartfelt thanks and handshakes are appreciated, the best way to thank the defenders of our freedom is to responsibly exercise and protect your freedom, not just at the polls on election day but in everything you do every day. Be free, allow others to be free, live without fear, and always question authority. These are your rights as an American and as a human being.