Your View: I’ll take freedom

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In the Episcopal Book of Common Prayer, we often pray for justice, freedom and peace except when we just pray for justice and peace. The freedom part is left out of three versions of Prayers of the People. Ive noticed that freedom is increasingly left out of our national dialogue as well. I would argue that this approach is exactly wrong that freedom is the foundation upon which the pillars of justice and peace are built, that freedom is the most important human wish after basic sustenance and safety.  
    
Freedom is what America was founded on: freedom of religion, freedom of political association, freedom to live where and how we choose. Yes, were also all part of the larger community and world, and responsibility comes with membership in the national and global political realm. But the pendulum has swung too far: losing sight of the collective is not something were currently in danger of doing. Losing sight of individual freedom is.
    
I believe that without freedom, neither justice nor peace are truly attainable. Freedom is the base of the triangle, with the angles of justice and peace arising out of it. Justice, which to me means fairness, is not possible without freedom. How can a situation be fair if people arent free to speak, worship, work and associate as they please? Likewise peace, which to me means a lack of war in national terms and serenity in terms of emotion, is not possible long-term without freedom. 
    
Look, for example, at Sudan, where a referendum is scheduled for this Sunday on whether Southern Sudan will secede and become an independent nation or remain a part of, and subjacent to, the North. In talking with and listening to people from south Sudan, it is obvious that they want peace, but they want freedom more. Most seem ready to forego peace if the price for that peace is continued subjection to the North. When we pray for peace in Sudan, I believe what were praying for is for the North to work with the South to compromise and allow Southern freedom. I dont believe the peace were praying for is a continuation of the status quo.
    
Likewise, during the Cold War, the Soviet Union used to attempt to pass itself off as the peacemaker, saying peace was what they wanted. Except the word they used for peace was mir, which actually means the world. They wanted peace, but on their terms. They wanted a world under their influence a world not free in the American sense. Thankfully, American leaders from President Harry Truman to President George H.W. Bush saw that world view for what it was and declared it unacceptable. We fought and won the Cold War because the Soviet definition of peace without freedom was repugnant.
    
Our modern world is a lot more complicated than the bi-polar Cold War era. Enemies that are non-state actors and hide behind civilian populations are in many ways more difficult to oppose than one mega opponent, albeit one with thousands of nuclear warheads aimed at us. Since September 11, 2001, Americans have surrendered some of our individual liberty in the name of collective safety. From the Patriot Act to airport searches, some erosion of our freedom has been a necessary evil.
    
The danger is that in our striving for justice and peace, in our wish for fairness and a cessation of armed conflicts, we dont give up the very freedom that makes a fair and peaceful world possible. The majority in the new U.S. House of Representatives that was sworn in yesterday has promised to include a provision in every new bill that states why the proposed bill is constitutional. I think thats tremendous, but would argue that all actions our government takes, both at home and abroad, should also be viewed through the prism of freedom. Does the proposed action increase or decrease freedom for us and others? If the answer is decrease, then the reason behind it, such as protection from terrorists, needs to be clear and convincing. 
    
There have been many great quotes about freedom through the years. One of my favorites comes from President Ronald Reagan, who said, Freedom is not something to be secured in any one moment of time. We must struggle to preserve it every day. And freedom is never more than one generation away from extinction.

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