“SPQR” – “Senatus Populusque Romanus”, or “ the Senate and People of Rome” – was a government slogan used both when ancient
At the dedication this weekend for the new United States Air Force Memorial in
The Secretary of the Air Force, Michael Wynne, said “This memorial is a brilliant symbol of freedom and the spirit of flight.”
Ross Perot, Jr., a former Air Force member who can afford to be a chairman of the memorial’s board of trustees thanks to his dad, said “This memorial says to everybody who visits, today and tomorrow, ‘This is the spirit that helped build the Air Force. This is the sacrifice that helped defend our freedom. This is the courage that helped build our nation.’”
Let’s talk about freedom.
What does “freedom” really mean? How many Americans give a crap, what with their mp3 players, their cell phones, their SUVs, their high gas prices, their MySpace, TiVo and their American Idol, what freedom really is? How many Americans appreciate why they can watch what they want to watch, say what they want to say without fear, go after the job they want to go after, and vote for who they want to vote for?
How often does the average American think about what courage it took to create our country, and what courage it takes to defend it now? How often does the average American read over the works of Benjamin Franklin, peruse the Federalist Papers, or examine the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution? How often do those engaged in the debate over gun control actually take a look at what the other amendments comprising the Bill of Rights say, about things other than “the right to bear arms”?
We Americans love our “freedom”, though I think we only really appreciate it on days when terrorists fly passenger jets into skyscrapers.
But they can only do that because the Constitution, the Bill of Rights and subsequent amendments, court decisions, government policies, and certain events helped foster a system, society and culture where ill-informed or arrogant “influential” people can thrive on playing on the general public’s general ignorance about a great many things. Thus emerges a situation in which whatever is said by the famous seems to be an expert opinion instead of just a prominent opinion.
“Freedom” is a word bandied about so much that the risk of it becoming as misunderstood or devalued as “conservative”, “liberal” and “love” is dangerously high. We take “conservative” to mean one thing, and “liberal” to mean another, and then use these terms either as a blanket endorsement or condemnation of someone or something.
For example, we associate “conservative” with “right wing”. Were the Nazis, on the far right-wing of the political spectrum, conservatives? In that they sought to uphold certain ingrained Germanic values, and thrived on that long-cherished European tradition of anti-Semitism, the Nazis were indeed politically “conservative”. In that they wanted to control everything, the National Socialist German Worker’s Party was definitely “big government” – not, technically, conservative.
And we associate “liberal” with “left wing”. We think of Communists or socialists as “left wingers”. Was the Communist Party of the
Did you know that the Liberal Party in the Commonwealth of Australia is actually, ideologically, conservative? Those blokes and sheilas Down Under in Oz sure are wacky!
A man might say “I love you” to a woman in order to try to get her into bed. Will one day our leaders speak of “freedom” just to seduce us, to rubberize our knees and emotionally compel us to comply with their desires and plans?
Or will this word, “freedom”, lose its meaning and patriotic value, becoming for us an emotional burden we no longer wish to be enslaved to or even hear about?
Paying lip-service to “freedom” like a broken record will not, in and of itself, help true freedom to endure. For many around the world, “freedom” as applied to the
BUT if Americans think of “freedom” only abstractly, in a primarily materialistic way, forgetting everything else that the word “freedom” implies – politically, socially, culturally, technologically, scientifically, educationally, philosophically, etc. – then “freedom” might in the future become for America what “SPQR” became for Rome: empty; an idea formerly full of meaning; underappreciated and taken for granted by the populace; and an overused word later all but disposed of, kept alive and employed only when someone powerful wants to get us into bed.