Another July, the month of the nation's birth, has just passed. The flags, the parades, the fireworks, etc., have again reminded us of the freedom we enjoy as a county. The stirring song by Lee Greenwood reflects the sentiment of most of our people:
"I'm proud to be an American,
Where at least I know I'm free.
And I won't forget the men who died, who gave that right to me.
And I gladly stand up,
Next to you and defend her still today.
'Cause there ain't no doubt I love this land,
God bless the USA."
It all sounds great while singing in the crowd, but what do we really mean by ''freedom?'' How many of our precious young men and women have recently sacrificed their lives to preserve our liberties?
Many of these young people, though yet alive, have paid for our freedom with maimed bodies that will now limit their personal freedoms. Do we understand that freedom is costly? Are we aware of the fact that true freedom is a divine gift, and to abuse it or not use it is to lose it?
Our military must ''fight'' for our freedom. Police ''fight'' to maintain law and order so we can enjoy freedom from danger and fear. Judges and prosecutors ''fight'' to promote justice by incarcerating criminals, so victims can once again enjoy freedom. Teachers "fight" to maintain order in the classroom so that students can be free to learn. Not to mention, parents who are in a daily ''fight'' with their children to do right, so the family can be free to function normally.
You see, freedom is not free! Peace is a wonderful gift, but it only comes through ''war.'' Rebellion must be put down before true peace and freedom can be attained. That little child, for instance, who is allowed to revolt against authority and bully others, whether at home or school, jeopardizes the peace and freedom of all concerned. In fact, if he is not put in his place, he could eventually lose his freedom in jail.
This pictures the growing and grievous situation in our country, nationally and locally. While we have been basically free from terrorist attacks since 9/11, we are being terrorized by hoodlums and criminals who abuse their freedoms to steal our freedom. Laws are in place ultimately to produce order and liberty. If, while driving down Route 422, I decide to pull out into the left lane instead of keeping right, I will become an accident waiting to happen. I not only will lose my freedom, but the person I hit coming the other way will lose his. Keeping the law enables me and others to travel freely on the highway.
Several days ago I checked the police blotter in our local paper. I was all but overwhelmed by the pages of police reports in our area. One word came to mind: lawlessness. The number of assaults, breaking and entering, shoplifting, and domestics was alarming and frightening. You see, all of those crimes were done by selfish, sinful people who used their so-called personal freedom to play havoc on the liberties of others. If someone breaks into my home and steals my money, then I lose the freedom to spend what belongs to me - not HIS! When someone steals from Walmart, the prices go up for all of us to bear. There's no free lunch. No one sins to himself - others pay the price as well.
Yes, ''let freedom ring,'' but not at the expense of others' rights. Without personal discipline and responsibility, our precious freedoms can only lead to bondage. This is how dictatorships are spawned. Without a spiritual and moral awakening the ''ring'' of freedom will soon be a death knell, and our history will be history.
Finnigan is a Howland resident. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org