A Times Editorial

Relighting liberty's beacon

Liberty is remarkable and relatively rare. But it is surely on the march. Two hundred and thirty-three years after the Founding Fathers declared independence from Great Britain — and let's not forget, officially sanctioned an armed insurrection — pause for a moment between the fireworks and platitudes to harken to where else the sounds of those seeking freedom now ring.

In Iran, citizens who merely want their votes to count organize and demonstrate defiantly in the streets, knowing that at any minute the undemocratic regime could arrest them, beat them or worse. They may not be successful right away, but they have exposed the government for what it is — a thugocracy intent on holding power at all costs. The Iranians in the street have history on their side.

In Iraq, joy fills the cities as American troops leave the urban areas to let the Iraqis run their own affairs. It is naive to think that the transition will be smooth and without violence or bloodshed, and U.S. troops will remain elsewhere in Iraq for a long while. But the United States is following through on its end of the withdrawal agreement. Americans have helped Iraqis achieve some level of freedom, and now Iraqis had better be ready to help themselves.

It is easy to forget that only 20 years ago walls were coming down from Berlin all the way across Eastern Europe as people rose up in country after country to fight for the right to govern themselves, and communism collapsed of its own dead weight. Freedom is an easy thing, unless you don't have it.

And what of America itself, which has at some points in its history been a little too quick in proclaiming itself a beacon of freedom for the world when its own citizens did not enjoy equal rights? At times, the United States has alienated other nations with its with-us-or-against-us rhetoric. But now Washington seems to be returning to the nation's roots, leading by example rather than bluster. This is who we are, this is what we believe.

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We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. That to secure these rights, governments are instituted among men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed.

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Roughly a third of those who signed that Declaration of Independence owned or had owned slaves. It took three generations for the Civil War to wipe away the stain of slavery forever, and generations again before half the country — its women — got the right to vote.

Now there is an African-American man in the White House. A woman — the speaker of the House — is second in line in presidential succession. And people across the world who cherish freedom and liberty can look to America to see the possibilities.

Happy Independence Day.

Relighting liberty's beacon 07/03/09 [Last modified: Friday, July 3, 2009 5:30am]

    

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