Your price of freedom

On July Fourth we celebrate what a handful of people did two centuries ago: they took their future into their own hands, in the name of freedom, and shaped the kind of world in which they wanted to live. and every year the cynics shake their heads and mutter, "Where did it all go wrong?"

It went wrong when we forgot that freedom does not come free. It cannot be borrowed, stolen, inherited, or received as a gift. In the end, we must each pay our portion of the price, not with mere money, but with our minds and bodies. If we do not, it will slowly but surely slip away from us.

It's not such a high price for what you get, and it's much cheaper to maintain freedom than to win it back once it's lost. Maybe you complain about the "crooks and idiots" running the government. When they were elected, did you study the issues and candidates before you voted, or did you just mark the name you had heard most often? Did you vote at all? Are you even registered?

You say your little vote doesn't count. Somebodym elected those "crooks and idiots." Theirm votes counted. Why not yours?

Have you ever called or written your officials to tell them what you think, or are they supposed to read your mind? Do you even know who they are?

Do you stand up for your beliefs, or just sit and make noise? If you believe in the draft, are you willing to go yourself and fight, or are you only willing to make someone else go? If you believe the draft is wrong, are you willing to resist it and accept the consequences -- exile or prosectuion -- or do you go along with it and hope someone else will save you?

Do you condemn draft dodgers but evade jury duty when your turn comes? If you were charged with a crime, you would surely want your constitutional right to a trial by jury. But how can you have a jury of your peers -- people like you -- if they're all evading jury duty, just like you?

It doesn't matter whether you're liberal or conservative, Republican, Democrat, Libertarian, or otherwise. It doesn't matter what you believe in. What matters is what you do about it.

You don't have to be wealthy, educated, experienced, or a good talker to get involved. All you have to be is willing to give.

Once upon a time, I volunteered to run errands for a local cause I believed in. I had never been to a City Council meeting, and didn't even know where City Hall was. Within a year, I was cofounder and vice president of a county-wide civic group. I learned as I went. I made contacts, and spoke up. At the end of the year, I moved out of the community, but the civic organization I helped to found is still going, still growing, still making changes happen.

The most important people, in that group or any other, are not the celebrities and the speechmakers. The mostm important people are the errand-runners, the ones who faithfully give an hour a week, or an hour a month, to address envelopes, make phone calls, and sit in front of shopping centers handing out literature.

Two hundred years ago, a handful of people risked their homes, livelihoods, reputations, and their lives for something they believed in. What have you risked? Have you given even one hour a month to making the count ry the kind of place in which you want to live?

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