Saturday, July 5, 2008

Freedom, the child of Hope

(Originally published 7/5/08)

Freedom.

It’s a beautiful word, rolling off the tongue like a breeze.

It’s a beautiful word for a beautiful concept: The ability to pursue opportunity, to practice individuality, to participate in the extraordinaries of ordinary life without fear of retribution.

And we Americans celebrate this extraordinary concept in ordinary ways.

In backyard barbeques and around picnic tables all across this country, Americans will gather ’round to enjoy holiday meals as they observe the anniversary of their country’s freedom.

There are dishes aplenty with cosmopolitan influences befitting the melting pot that is the United States: Whether it’s mojito-marinated, ranchero-flavored or huli-huli grilled chicken; Mediterranean or Bavarian potato salad; Peking pork pasta, Aegean or Vietnamese rice noodle salad; kielbasa or baked bean pot lentils; you can have a meal for Independence Day as ethnically diverse as your fellow celebrants.

And as with everything American, even eating is competitive: There’s even a world-famous hot dog eating contest in which participants race to see who will need angioplasty first.

Not really. But sort of.

High school marching bands provide the soundtrack in communities across the country, a Souza-laced celebration punctuated by the occasional piccolo and reminiscent of the bands that once accompanied America’s fighting men and women into battles to secure and protect that freedom.

Most of us finish the night enjoying breathtaking fireworks shows, whether on a blanket out in our community or vicariously through the wonders of television. It’s a spectacular way to finish the evening.

But for three American families, freedom this Fourth of July takes on a whole new meaning.

Held hostage in Colombian jungle by a revolutionary militia for more than six years, Marc Gonsalves, Thomas Howes and Keith Stansell were freed Wednesday in a daring rescue operation that was described by fellow hostage and former Colombian presidential candidate Ingrid Betancourt as “a miracle.”

The three Americans arrived back in the States in the early morning hours of July 3 to receive medical treatment and to be reunited with the families that had yearned so long for their return.

Imagine, for a moment, what that must have been like. Where were you six years ago? Think about what it would have been like to be held in a jungle in a foreign land since then. Think about all you would have missed – with your family, with your friends – as those years slipped away.

Upon your return, would you recognize your children?

Would you remember what it was like to make your own decisions?

Would you have given up hope?

For in the beginning, it was hope that gave birth to freedom – hope that there could be a New World, that individuals could have a country wherein they could worship freely, that the ideals of self-reliance and personal responsibility and determination would be a strong enough foundation to turn that hope into reality.

Hope gave birth to freedom on that day in 1776, and freedom holds open the doors of opportunity for us.

Welcome home, Marc, Thomas and Keith. Welcome home to freedom.

1 comment:

gene said...

Typical of the excellence you espouse; however, this is definitely one of your very best as you do that which all of us should wish we were able to do: Salute those who absolutely need saluting!