Monday, July 04, 2005

"Do You Know What Day This Is?"

From Dennis Byrne in the Chicago Tribune: "Most people call today the 4th of July, or just the 4th. That's fine. But what we're really celebrating today is Independence Day.

The distinction is worth a thought. The 4th is parades, fireworks, squirt guns, bands and picnics. Independence Day is freedom and the community we call the United States of America.

But as sweet as it is to celebrate our independence, we should boldly celebrate something more: our delivery of the gift of independence to millions elsewhere.

Few nations have had the rare privilege of bestowing such a magnificent gift. It has happened only twice in the past 60 years, when the United States and its allies released tens of millions from fascism's grip, and when we and the Free World (we used to capitalize it) peacefully released millions from the captivity of Soviet communism.

Historically, you can't get much bigger than that. Yet, what's happening now might be as historic.

We have liberated two nations, and their millions of people, from brutal tyrannies. We have brought the prospect of democracy to the Middle East, a region that has rarely, if ever, known it. We have confronted today's most rancid oppressors.

It is notable that in all instances, we--the United States--were instrumental in these global victories. Can anyone really believe this was an accident? Can anyone doubt that our national character and our values had something to do with it? America's main export is freedom, and not just as an idea. Our actions have bettered the lives of millions. The price is high, but it's worth it.

Yet, some would turn this mountain into a molehill. They will not allow us to bask in what should be a proud time in our history. We should feel ashamed, they tell us, with some success. Just like during and after the Vietnam War, when we engaged in a period of self-loathing perhaps unmatched in our history.

As historian David McCullough noted, if our War of Independence "had been covered by [today's] media and the country had seen how horrible the conditions were ... and what a very serious soup we were in, I think that would have been it."

We can't bestow independence on every country, although we're roundly criticized when our efforts to bring cures, prosperity, stability and peace to suffering nations fall short. And certainly, where we spend our lives and treasure in the cause of freedom is subject to cool-headed debate.

But what's it worth to us? Why care about spreading freedom? The answer is here, in this question: When was the last time we were invaded by a free nation? "

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