Sunday, June 30, 2013

Fighting For Freedom Right Here

As America readies for its 237th Independence Day I am struck by a bumper sticker I saw this weekend “My Dad Is Fighting For Our Freedom”.  Perhaps influenced by President Eisenhower’s January 17, 1961 farewell to the nation, the famous Military Industrial Complex warning, I have always been wary of the nation’s excessive militarism.

“This conjunction of an immense military establishment and a large arms industry is new in the American experience. The total influence — economic, political, even spiritual — is felt in every city, every statehouse, every office of the federal government. We recognize the imperative need for this development. Yet we must not fail to comprehend its grave implications. Our toil, resources and livelihood are all involved; so is the very structure of our society. In the councils of government, we must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the military-industrial complex. The potential for the disastrous rise of misplaced power exists, and will persist.”

In fact, my wariness has been mixed with my inherent skepticism to form a concoction of concern and cynicism.  I never bought the Bush Administration’s “We’re fighting them over there so we don’t have to fight them here.”  I simply did not believe the Iraq invasion and subsequent rebuilding had anything to do with protecting our freedom.  I am neither a pacifist nor an isolationist, our participation and leadership in World War II and the Korean Peninsula were just and necessary.  But somewhere along the line we lost our way.  Over the last half century, our interventions in sovereign states and the use of our military have been less about freedom and more about global interests.  We backed corrupt regimes in Vietnam, Iran, Nicaragua, and elsewher; none of which posed threats to our freedom.  We should not abdicate moral responsibility to promote individual rights and oppose oppression, but this should not be wrapped in the American flag and spun as fighting for our freedom. 

Perhaps the bumper sticker was not about a soldier fighting overseas.  Perhaps, the bumper sticker referred to a civil rights lawyer, a government whistleblower, or an investigative journalist?  I would argue that Ted Olson and David Boies are freedom fighters for arguing the case against California’s Proposition 8 and based on last week’s success at the Supreme Court, these men should be lauded for their victory.  Ordinary citizens who exhibit extraordinary mettle in fighting against illegal search and seizure, efforts to stifle free speech, and voter suppression certainly qualify as freedom fighters.  If freedom is defined by our bill of rights, civil rights, and our natural rights, shouldn’t those who defend these tenets  be considered freedom fighters on par with those from our greatest generation that fought on faraway places like Guadalcanal or tiny villages in France? 

On this 4th of July, as we celebrate our independence with cook outs, fireworks, parades, and ubiquitous flags, I will celebrate thinking of Lucretia Mott, Margaret Sanger, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Martin Luther King, the ACLU, Louis Brandeis, Hugo Black, Robert Ingersoll, and other great Americans that have fought against those that would deny rights to all Americans.  And while it is noble to want to want to export liberty and freedom to the rest of the world, the domestic fight must continue without wavering.   And I am not talking about government suggested national guidelines Sarah Palin.

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