Each year we set aside days to remember those who have sacrificed everything to give us the freedom that we hold dear. Today we gather with friends and family to celebrate all that we have been given due to our forefathers’ wisdom and willingness to take a risk; a risk that would unite not only thirteen colonies but eventually form a union that has held fast for 236 years.
A month ago I visited for the first time our nation’s capital, and during my visit I was amazed at the paradox of death and life resonating in and around the city. Arlington Cemetery gave testament to the thousands upon thousands who gave their life for our country… for me. I heard stories of wars, assassinations, disagreements and yet there before me sat the United States Capitol building, the Statue of Freedom standing proud on top of that dome. Walking that city I realized no matter how many trials our nation has seen, we have continued to move forward together.
But, as a new generation rises, my own generation and those after it, I wonder how many of us really grasp the importance of our own voice in the progression of this great republic.
I graduated with a bachelor degree in Journalism and Mass Communication. I understand the importance of the press. I understand our role in bringing truth to the masses so that the people can make educated decisions.
1786 August 13, From Thomas Jefferson to George Wythe “I think by far the most important bill in our whole code is that for the diffusion of knowledge among the people. No other sure foundation can be devised, for the preservation of freedom and happiness…Preach, my dear Sir, a crusade against ignorance; establish & improve the law for educating the common people. Let our countrymen know that the people alone can protect us against these evils [tyranny, oppression, etc.] and that the tax which will be paid for this purpose is not more than the thousandth part of what will be paid to kings, priests and nobles who will rise up among us if we leave the people in ignorance.” (more quotes by Jefferson)
Education is key and I believe the press’ responsibility is to act as one venue of education for the people, giving them the information (ideally without bias) so they can form their own opinion and decide what the wisest decision for the country is.
But, even if the press is doing this, (which I will be the first to say though many of us try, we do not always succeed) is our audience in a position to listen, understand and act? I do not believe we are. I do not like blaming the internet for where our nation is now. The internet has expanded many opportunities of learning, growth and communication. But I believe it has also lent a hand to information overload and a shorter attention span.
This being said, I believe my generation is becoming lazy in its freedom.
What are we doing to preserve our freedom? Do we even really understand how to preserve it? Is war our only understanding of preserving our rights?
In DC I also visited the Newseum, which is a museum dedicated to showing the power of the press. One thing that really stuck with me, was the Berlin Wall display and the gentleman in front of me who opened my eyes to an event in history I really knew very little about. He told his friend to look at the graffitied side of the wall (so of course I looked too). This side was completely covered with colorful words, not an inch of the concrete was plain. Then he gestured the man to follow him and they (well, we) walked to the other side where there was a plain, gray piece of concrete, with a watchtower behind it. And the gentleman said, “You can clearly see who had freedom of expression.” As I walked around and heard about what went on behind that wall, I began to realize how free I really am. I can hear both sides of stories and determine for myself what is the truth. Then I have the freedom to take that truth and decide what to do with it. I can talk about it, blog about it and share my opinion about it. I have that freedom, but do I actually do this?
And if I do not, does that put my freedom at stake?
Please understand this is more a confession on my part. I am not the ideal informed public that Jefferson said is so vital to keeping our rights. I listen and read just enough to get by but many times I allow others’ opinions and interpretations to drive my own. And this realization about myself worries me. If we all have this attitude, I think Jefferson would say it would be our own demise.
If we do not utilize our freedom today what do you think our nation will look like tomorrow? Would love to hear your thoughts/opinions.