Never Forget Why We Can Enjoy Today

2tomb-unknown-soldierToday is Memorial Day in the United States – the day we honor those who died protecting our country, protecting us.

I think it is more that we honor the way they lived. The fallen multitudes embraced the responsibility to protect our way of life from those who would usurp or destroy it.  Knowing full well the dangers, they paid the ultimate price to defend against the bullies of the world. They saw there was a greater good to achieve.

Oh, we can sit here and argue whether this or that war was right or justified. And that’s the whole point.

While we munch on our hot dogs, down some burgers, or sip on sodas, we can say what we want about our political leaders. We can protest government actions we think are wrong. We can do it without fearing some goons will crash into our homes and drag us off to jail or even chop our heads off.

The freedom we enjoy in this country is precious and paid for with the blood of citizens. We all must share in the responsibility of maintaining it. We do that by being informed and active voters, by letting our representatives know what we think about the issues, by paying our taxes, by sitting on a jury, and even by serving in the military.

Is this country perfect? Heck, no! We are flawed, but we must recognize this and continually strive toward the ideals our government is based on. We must have the courage to fulfill our obligations to something greater than ourselves.

By all means, enjoy the day. Just never forget the host of angels who have given you the freedom to do just that.

 

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Remembrance, Rights, Responsibility

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Today is Memorial Day in the United States – the day we remember those who have died protecting our rights and our way of life.

We all appreciate our ability to say or write what we think and to live without the fear of the government evicting us from our homes or throwing us into jail at a whim. Most of us gratefully honor those who protect those rights, those freedoms.

Why is it then that so many ignore their responsibility in using and maintaining these rights? Why are so many of us willing to be herded by the “thought leaders” without doing what it takes to keep them honest?

I recently tripped across the piece “Thumb War” by Katie Roiphe in the latest issue of Esquire magazine. In it, Roiphe uses the Twitter storm around Gay Talese’s alleged comments regarding women writers to illustrate how thoughtlessly people comment on manufactured slants to subjects. We are so willing to blast someone in 140 characters without knowing the whole story.

Social media are like fire – beneficial if used responsibly, but dangerous if not. What worries me is the public’s willingness to be led by the short spurts of incomplete information they are fed. So many people get their “news” from Twitter and Facebook which, by their very nature, are unable to provide the deep research necessary for a complete story.

People don’t investigate to the heart of the matter, the kernel of truth, on other media outlets. They just don’t question whether what they’re reading or seeing is valid. That responsibility takes effort.

Freedom of speech and freedom of the press are rights established by the Constitution’s First Amendment. The purpose was to give people access to all information, especially information and opinion contrary to the mainstream, so they can make good decisions. Self-government is founded upon making decisions.

The most important area of decision making in government is selecting and influencing our representatives. We have the right – and the responsibility – to vote for our lawmakers. We should always make the best decision based not on what we’re fed by our preferred media source but by our stringent efforts to determine the truth of the candidates’ history, character, and personality.  Elections should not devolve into popularity contests.

This takes effort. We need to think critically about the complicated issues and the candidates’ positions on them. We have do more than follow the tweets and Facebook posts. And we need to vote on our investigation and synthesis of information. We need to fulfill our responsibilities to maintain our rights.

To do less would be to dishonor those we remember today.