Letter: Freedom ring
I dropped off my ballot at the mailbox recently, and felt a moment of pride to be an American. There are plenty of so-called “democracies” that send government troops to polling places to intimidate, beat, or even maim opposition voters.
Here, we can disagree about almost everything, but still respect the opinions of our fellow citizens, and the peace and stability of the nation as a whole. If we cannot negotiate our differences, we can resolve them in free elections.
The Declaration of Independence was signed on July 4, 1776. It took 12 more years to construct the blueprint for our new country – the Constitution – and another six months to complete the Bill of Rights (the first 10 amendments to the Constitution) that were designed to protect individual citizens from the abuse of power by the government.
Before freedom of speech, before trial by jury, before the right to bear arms – before anything else – the first words of the First Amendment gave us the right to freedom of religion. Why was this gift so important?
Our founding fathers, who were well-educated, politically astute, and very aware of history, wanted to protect us from religious wars, civil strife, crusades, inquisitions, the persecution of heretics, and the criminal prosecution and violent punishment of “sins” (as they may be defined by any particular religious group).
We ourselves have seen a relatively moderate Islam radicalized by the Ayatollah Khomeini, the Taliban, and IS, leading millions of devout followers who believe they are doing God’s work. The resulting devastation and suffering may never end.
We are now facing some monumentally important choices in our upcoming elections. Do we want an American Inquisition, led by a fundamentalist President, supported by a fundamentalist Congress and tolerated by Supreme Court happy to turn a blind eye? Or does the word “freedom” still ring? Vote carefully.