I’ve been to Washington DC many times throughout my life, but never for the Fourth of July before now. I’ve come to love the city with it’s history and grandeur. I can’t help but feel inspired while standing in the shadow of Thomas Jefferson reading his view of what it means to be an independent people. I walk down the steps of the memorial and begin to walk the path around the tidal basin toward the Lincoln Memorial. I want to walk the path along the reflecting pool, but can’t. There are gates everywhere. Seven foot tall chain link fencing to be exact; standing over you to let you know where you should and should not be. More gates are stacked to the side. The day before I had to go through an x-ray scanner to enter a food court downtown. The sight of the fencing sends a chill down my spine. I don’t feel safe. I feel afraid.
I’m afraid of losing my freedom. I stand in the shadow of individuals who under cover of darkness pledged their land and their lives for the pursuit of freedom and wonder what would they think of all this. Security checkpoints, body scanners, roadblocks, drones, and the NSA reading my Facebook posts. There is only so far I can go in this train of thought before deleting whole paragraphs of content. The right combination of keywords referencing leaders, locations, and/or ordinances could have law enforcement officials wanting to talk to me very quickly.
We’re losing our freedoms and it seems like no one cares. In the name of security we are limiting people’s speech, access, and abilities. Many individuals are willingly giving them up out of fear for a semblance of safety that doesn’t exist. Those who seek to do harm to others will always find a way. You don’t even have to be an evil genius. Just turn on Netflix. If Hollywood can think it up, there’s probably some guy in a secret lair saying “why didn’t I think of that”.
John Adams said “Democracy never lasts long. It soon wastes, exhausts, and murders itself. Am I watching this very thing happen before my eyes I see our government which has inspired the freedom of so many, including the Arab Spring, now making it’s people afraid. Thomas Jefferson said “When the people fear their government there is tyranny.” I’ve visited countries where armed soldiers walk the streets and monitor their people and it’s unsettling to see how we are slowly moving in that direction. The smiles are as fake as their freedom.
Today we celebrate our nation’s independence and our freedom as a people. It’s a day of reflection on what it took to get here and what it means to be citizens of the United States of America. As we remember, let’s not forget what freedom truly means. It’s freedom to speak our minds, even though it may offend and others may not agree. It’s freedom to travel without crossing border checks, purchase large amounts of refried beans, and where t-shirts that say what you think of the president. It’s the freedom to be an individual living and loving life in a country whose founders we memorialize for sharing their dream of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness in order to make the world a better place.