How lucky we are…

Woman on beach with gray skySome people don’t seem to realize how lucky we are to have freedom of speech.  Sure, there are a few restrictions, but not many.  Here in America and some other countries we can pretty much say whatever we want, even if it’s hurtful or disrespectful.  As much as I get annoyed by how far people push this freedom, I’m deeply grateful it exists.  Would I wish for it to ever be taken away?  Absolutely not!

I served in the military because I believed in it.  Some longtime subscribers will even recall a post where I said that I didn’t begrudge people who stood outside military bases and protested against soldiers.  They called us baby killers, told us to go home (which made no sense because we were in America), and threw vegetables at our vehicles.  Still, I would fight and even willingly die to keep their right to say what they want.  The veggie toss went a bit over the line, though.

That’s not what gets me.  It’s the fact that many of these people have no idea how much of a luxury it is to sit around and complain about anything they want.  Think about those who wake up wondering where their next meal will come from, how they’ll cloth their children, or even if they can afford a place to live.  I don’t imagine those people are sitting around websites bullying and belittling others.

Let’s go one further.  How about the people who fight for their very right to live because they don’t have the right ethnicity, follow the right religion, or back the right political party?  They face the very prospect of dying for something that may or may not even be within their control and even if they could change it, why should they have to?  Here in America we can believe whatever the hell we want so long as it doesn’t hurt anyone.  A luxury I thank God for having.

Back in 2007 I was in Damascus, Syria.  Those of you who keep up with current events are probably aware of what a hotbed that place has become, but I was there before it got bad.  It was the last time they had a so-called “presidential election”.  You might consider it more of a referendum since all people really voted for was whether or not the president should stay in office or have to compete against other candidates.  You simply checked “yes” or “no”.

I’d studied the Middle East well enough to know how that vote was going to turn out.  I couldn’t help but make the snide remark after it was over “big shocker Bashar Al-Asad got 99 percent of the yes vote”.  To this I was quickly warned to keep my mouth shut and not say another word or else I might get thrown in jail.  Yeah, I was aware of that possibility but the American in me couldn’t help myself.  The whole thing was so wrong that I almost wouldn’t have minded getting arrested just to speak my mind about it.

It gets better, though.  I walked through the shopping areas of the city to find the Ba’ath party out in full force partying away as if they really had won some kind of great victory.  They were shouting out the windows of their cars as they drove by, shooting guns in the air (always a smart move), and dancing in the streets.  The whole thing seemed ludicrous to me.  They were celebrating ten times more there than we do in the states after an election.  All over a yes or no vote!!!

Some of these guys were probably brainwashed into believing all this was a good thing, but I have to believe some of them only participated for fear of what would happen if they didn’t.  In a place where you can end up in prison and be tortured for having conflicting political beliefs, you do what you must to survive.  Not just that, but if you’re marked as a bad apple, the eyes of the government will turn to your family too.  Before the election I’d seen Al-Asad’s picture plastered all over ever possible place including store fronts, taxi cab windows, billboard signs, street poles, and countless other spots.  People feared that if they didn’t have it up they would be considered anti-government.

So, yeah, when I hear about people being harassed over stupid bullshit it irks me.  It must be nice to have the luxury to waste away your time on the internet belittling others because you don’t have to worry about where your next meal will come from or whether your government will kill/imprison you for not supporting them.  It’s a great right to have, but sad you can’t use that freedom of expression for something a little more important.  There are thousands of injustices around the world that could use a loud voice, but instead we’re going to nitpick on the unimportant crap because that’s what makes us feel better.

Honestly, I have no more words to say on this matter.  Most of you probably know what set this rant off, but I’m not going to bother getting specific.  I just wish people who have so much free time could use it a little more wisely.

~ by Suzie on August 23, 2013.

13 Responses to “How lucky we are…”

  1. Suzie, Thank you for your service. This is a beautiful post.

  2. Susie, I’m not sure what set you off, but it was a beautiful piece of writing that resulted. I agree, we are among those who are blessed with the freedom to bite the hand that feeds it, so to speak. We can speak out against our government, burn the flag that shields us, and do so without fear, without retribution. Even if we despise the people who burn the flag and curse America, we can’t punish them. That kind of freedom is something we need to treasure and to guard. Even here, it’s possible to lose this gift. We can’t let it be eroded, not even a little.

    I’ve never seen you write this way before…it touched my heart.

    • Thanks, NN. I’ve seen a lot of little things online, read news articles, and had a couple of big things recently that were getting me more and more upset. It got to the point all I could think about is if people who run around the internet being rude and cruel to others could put all that energy into doing something useful, the world would be such a better place. If it’s attention they need, why not be a human rights activist since they seem so stuck on exercising their freedom of speech. A far better hobby than harassing people online (no, it hasn’t happened to me, but I hate seeing it happen to others).

  3. Great post, Suzie. Spot on.

  4. Susie, I too support our freedom of speech – but I have been heard to say that people who complain overmuch about this country should go spend a few weeks, or months or years, in someplace like Syria … Iraq … Afghanistan. Heck, I’d even be willing to contribute to the fund to send ’em there!

    But yes, we do need to always be vigilant, to defend our right to speak our minds, and to defend the rights of others to do the same, especially when we don’t agree with them.

    You wrote a great column today! Thank you.

  5. Thank you for your service and your insights. I was wrestling myself with a dilemma this week that had eclipsed everything else in my orbit. Your perspective sure helped calm me down. And, of course, we all need a reminder that the things we complain about are trivial to others who are less fortunate than we are. This is a valuable lesson that most of us, in our ease and comfort and constitutional protections, need to learn and re-learn. Thank you for posting this.

    I would also like to express my sympathies in advance to whoever it is that set you off. I would refer them to your knife skills and overall badassery, and urge caution. Word to the wise…

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