Voice of Democrary
I just found out that my oldest daughter placed second in our high school's Voice of Democracy contest. Voice of Democracy is an essay contest sponsored by the Veteran's of Foreign Wars. The topic is this year was on Freedom.
Here's her essay:
"Freedom" is probably the most exploited word in America today. It has been devalued and distorted, stuck on the end of countless political goals to put a glorious mask over the true intentions behind them. Any cause can be justified as long as it comes with the phrase "defending our freedom." But our freedom is in deeper jeopardy than it has been in a long time, and it's not because of outside threats.
When the Founding Fathers wrote the Constitution, they began a brilliant new political movement that affected not only the U.S. but the entire world. Upon seeing the success of the newly formed American government, other countries took up arms against their own tyrannical rulers, the best example being the French Revolution.
Ever since, when countries have overthrown unjust governments and created new ones, many have based their own Constitutions on that of the United States. That is the way democracy is spread-- by setting an example, showing people that a society based on the power of the people can create a safe, free, and successful country, but essentially leaving the decision of whether or not to follow these footsteps up to the country's citizens.
Nowadays, however, this method isn't working as well as it once was. Because when people look at the U.S. today, they no longer see a land of freedom with a fair and effective government. Immigration to America continues because yes, life here is far better than life in many other countries. But few countries today actually look up to America with reverence--we're rapidly gaining a reputation as the bullies of the world.
And the problem worsens every day, because the U.S. government fails to see one obvious fact--you can't put a gun to someone's head and tell them "Be free!" Democracy results from choice, and therefore can never be spread by force. Any attempt to make a country into a democracy via outside intervention will only create turmoil, as we have clearly seen through many of our recent efforts in the Middle East.
As our foreign image deteriorates, we are faced with an equally grave problem here at home; even the cherished liberties of the American people are being steadily curtailed. Laws such as the Patriot Act and Military Commissions Act go specifically against the morals of the United States. We have always stood for, or at least claimed to stand for, the basic human rights to privacy and to fair trials, both of which are specifically targeted by our government today. We are told that these are protective measures, but since when were Americans slaves to fear? Since when were we willing to give up our freedom for the promise of protection? For a country that boasts of being the "land of the free" and "home of the brave", we're acting like complete cowards.
Bravery is the strength to keep your freedoms even in the face of adversity and to stand up to challenges that wear the mask of protection. In the words of Benjamin Franklin, "Those who would give up essential liberty to purchase a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety." From what I've seen, that’s exactly what a lot of Americans would do.
But it is our duty, if we are to call ourselves a free country, to defend our rights. We have to stand up against infringements against our freedoms before things get out of control and we lose even the right to protest. America is currently one of the best places to live because we can let our government know what they're doing wrong, and we, the citizens of this country, can create change. But will these qualities last forever? If the American public never wakes from its complacency, they will not. It's up to us to make a difference, not to progress to but to regress to the values that forged this country. Our society is congealing into a lazy mass of consumers who pay little attention to the proceedings of their own government, let alone the rest of the world. And any society that gives more concern to how well their team is doing in the Super Bowl than to the laws that are being passed that could directly affect them is wide open for manipulation.
America gives power to the people, a freedom that the people of many countries would die to attain. But we neglect our power, and therefore abandon it. We have the right to challenge our government, not to demean it but to correct it, and to ignore this precious right is nothing less than criminal. The American public, for the most part, sits indifferently and watches as their government spends billions of dollars in foreign aid to countries without justifying the need for it, passes laws that go against values that have withstood even the most troubled periods of American history, and kills thousands of people, both American soldiers and foreign civilians, for causes that seem to shift as new facts are revealed.
It's time for the American people to wake up. Many are, but they are powerless against an indifferent majority. We have the right to vote, and we should exercise it! We have the right to peaceful assembly, and petition, and free speech… and all of these need to be put into practice. Because some of them are slipping into more and more danger.
Freedom has been a central part of our government since its creation, and we have always been proud of it. Now, that pride continues, but the cause for it diminishes. We're forcing "freedom" on other countries around the globe, while neglecting our own country. Surely it's more important to keep our nation as close to its original purity as possible, to be an example for the rest of the world, than to try to spread our ideals by the gun? Our ideals which, as we spread them, become more and more corrupted.
It is important for people all over the world to be free, of course. And it is important for governments that mistreat and excessively restrict their citizens to be reformed or overthrown. But it's not acceptable for another country to use their struggle as an excuse to pursue its own goals in the name of liberty. The challenge freedom faces in the world today is even graver than many of us believe. Freedom's challenge in the modern world is not one of expansion, but of self preservation.