Monday, July 4, 2011

July 4th thoughts of freedom

Today is one of the days when everyone remembers the birth of our country, and they thank all of those who keep the country free.  I agree with that, but I sometimes think the common scope of who we're thanking is a bit small. 

I will never forget how it felt to stand in Arlington National Cemetery and look at the thousands of white headstones against the green rolling hills.  To see all of those who have died in fighting for this country, and know there were many more who never made it home, or are elsewhere is really stirring.  I will always appreciate everything done by the armed services of our country. 

A few weeks ago something else happened in the country that was significant to many.  New York's legislature voted to give allow same-sex marriage in their state.  It was a close vote.  They weren't sure it would make it.  It took one brave voted official to change his mind, to go against what he said he stood for when he was elected, and to truly look not just into his heart but into the laws and legal rights for thousands of other people around the state.  And he did.  All of those who voted in the affirmative helped to move our country one step further to freedom. 

In Arizona we voted twice on making same-sex marriage banned within our constitution.  The first time my side won and the vote was denied.  It was the first time in the country that it hadn't immediately won.  We were so happy.  We thought just maybe, one day, we might be able to get married after all.  Then, a few years later they tried it again.  This time, our side lost.  It's practically impossible to remove something from our constitution so unless we move to another state, or country, we knew that we would likely never be able to legally marry unless something was changed at the national level.  We hoped.  We prayed.  But then we decided we really wanted to do it.

Then Pastor Barb came forward, our ball got officially rolling and everyone in our world is talking about our big day.  It's exciting.  And we love every minute of it.  But now and then I have to admit that there are times when we wish it could be just a bit more. 

We're missing more than 1400 rights that our friends could get via a drive-through in Vegas.  We've been together more than 10 years, share a loving home, and we are committing to our love in a church in front of God, family and friends.  Shouldn't that give us something?  50 rights?  100 rights?  If we're only half the citizens, give us just 1/2 the rights.  Or maybe we should only pay 1/2 the taxes?   After all, a recent law passed here makes it even harder for same sex couples to adopt so maybe gay people shouldn't have to pay for schools?  Right?  Honestly, I feel just the opposite.  If there are people so ill informed about the world and the plight of those children who want homes, and couples who want to do nothing but show each other love then really we need to be paying a lot more attention to our educational system.  I need to ensure that the future generations are smart enough to get us out of this mess.  Ensure they are smart enough to see through past bias and fear and can keep their focus on the intent of the laws and the freedoms of the people. 

So today, on July 4th, I'd like to send out a special thank you.  Armed forces often share most of the well wishes on this special day, and of course the fighting they do for our freedom can never be forgotten.  But also we should never forget those who fight for the freedoms of those in our courtrooms and in our legislatures.  They may be forgotten in some circles, but their works impact each of us on a regular basis.  Thank you to the teachers who are often the only ones who will ever share civics lessons with children in homes where these things aren't discussed at the family table.  Thank you for lighting that fire within our students to make them better citizens.  Thank you to the respectful protesters.  Those who have important messages to share and do so without feeling that a "certain" mustache applied over someone's face is an appropriate image.  Thank you to the police force who work hard to keep the city safe and ensure everyone has the right to live a peaceful life.  And finally, thank you to the educated voters.   Those who don't just vote the way someone told them to, or because the names have the right letter next to their names, but because they have looked into their options and are truly going with the person they believe will best deal with the issues that are important to them.  If 10-20% more of the population did just that, we would have a terrifically different country indeed. 

"Those who deny freedom to others deserve it not for themselves." Abraham Lincoln

"We must be free not because we claim freedom, but because we practice it." William Faulkner

Let freedom ring.

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