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On the Corner

Freedom

by Robert Docter – 

One can never be free when consumed by hate.

The hate object has all the power as it dictates the thoughts and behaviors of the hater.

Two events took place this July in close proximity. One celebrated freedom and responsibility while the other sought to limit it by massacring innocent people. One celebrated their event with the explosion of brilliant rockets whose red glare showered gently falling points of light on welcoming spectators that stimulated excited oohs and ahs. The other exploded bombs on unsuspecting travelers that resulted in mangled and mutilated bodies, death and severe injury. The groans and screams will echo through survivors for generations.

Those seeking freedom choose life. Those motivated by hate choose death. One identifies with a God of love and forgiveness. The other seems obsessed by what I perceive as a misguided belief system that requires them to engage in of some kind of holy war with a goal to annihilate our free choice in how we relate to God.

I join those celebrating freedom. The dilemma within me, however, embeds itself in the values conflict between demanding justice for victims and my commitment to a God who loves everyone—even murderers. Can I forgive these oppressors and murderers as I know Christ would? If I can’t, then my hate for them denies me the full freedom I crave. Now that’s a dilemma.

For me, the month of July offers its own backdrop to magnificent center stage events of a free society.

A free society moves through words. It hears itself think as its ideas and messages are broadly transmitted by a free press. Participants settle differences through negotiation, through balloting, through a rule of law. Government is the servant of the governed. Equal treatment under the law is granted to all. Civility, fairness and transparency guide its process.

This July while some, hidden deep in caves, huddle together to plan their next murderous act, this land of the free and home of the brave demonstrates for the world its ethic on a grand stage. The nation soon will examine and debate somewhat prejudiced and stereotypical––and sometimes even accurate views, of a nominee to become a Supreme Court Justice. Finally, that person will take office.

Not all matters of discussion this July portend serious consequences. The “boys of summer”––the ball players who cavort within the confines of a perfect square called a diamond on which they circle the bases––have reached a half-way point to their season—some still filled with hope while others begin to echo the Dodger lament––“wait ‘till next year.”

One wonders what the Al Qaeda “boys of summer” will be doing.

In our hemisphere, western Florida once again is visited by an unfriendly entity named Dennis or Ivan or Andrew while here in southern California we worry about wildfires and earthquakes. But for me and my July, I find the trees full, the shade luxurious, the patio enticing, family and friends pleasing. A refreshing, gentle wind blows softly on my face as our July 4th paper tablecloth reveals its independence, and the happy, excited voices of playing children startle birds and parents simultaneously.

Life in a free society is not necessarily painless. Iraq seems a distant ache stimulating its own guilt as we remember the greater pain experienced by the family down the block. Oil prices confound until we reacquaint ourselves with the law of supply and demand and talk about getting a car with better mileage. Nevertheless, miles mount on our large, powerful engines forever calling out the addict’s song of “more—more—more!”

Independence Day—the fourth of this month—has come and gone. For many it was a day of fireworks and all sorts of fun—some much less funny than others. I re-read the Declaration of Independence and, as always, when confronted by magnificent writing, was deeply moved. On Independence Day we celebrated the “birthday” of our nation. We mark its date by the day on which Jefferson’s historic treatise was unanimously approved. It is a formal statement of one people seeking freedom from what they perceived as oppressive limits to that freedom. It was not done without pain and hurt, for the oppressor in this instance was a parent.

It begins very politely by identifying the basic principles of the culture its people had come to embrace and identifying the specific causes of action that required such a declaration. It ended with courage and conviction that I personally affirm for myself in the face of clandestine bombers anywhere.

And for the support of this Declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of divine providence, we mutually pledge to each other our lives, our fortunes and our sacred honor.
Can I remain true to my sacred honor without embracing the humanity of those who would deny me the very freedom I pledge to uphold?


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