06/17/09 — Learning liberty: Many in Iran crave freedoms we often take for granted

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Learning liberty: Many in Iran crave freedoms we often take for granted

This paper does not usually speak much about international incidents. Frankly, there are too many issues to comment on right here at home.

But the not-so-surprising reaction to what can only be called a sham of an Iranian election -- and the public's response to it -- should shock no one, but make many Americans think.

Here, in the United States, no matter whether you are a Democrat or a Republican or choose to associate yourself with neither party, you have the right to throw anyone out of office you do not think is doing the job.

There is no need for hundreds of thousands of protesters to gather at the Capitol in Washington. There is no need to storm the Statehouse in Raleigh -- even if, at times, we might like to do just that.

In this country, when you cast your vote -- even if the system is not perfect and you might not always like the answer -- it counts.

In Iran, even though hundreds of thousands of Iranians cast their votes, it did not matter. The despot in charge has decided to take over the country -- and to ignore the voices of his people.

You can bet that more violence and an official, military, reaction are not far behind.

And this week's story should remind us of another country's history.

There are many Americans who still question what was done for the Iraqi people. They discount the strides made and wonder if Saddam Hussein should have been challenged and if the war that has been fought in Iraq is worth the blood that has been shed.

Think back to the first day when Iraqis tore down the statue of the man whose reign of terror had imprisoned and murdered their families and stolen their livelihoods. Remember the joy -- the euphoria, even -- when they realized that they were now free to make their own choices, to live without fear.

Think back again to the day when they cast their first votes for their first-ever representative government. Remember the people who rushed up to news cameras to show the ink on their fingers, the sign that they had taken advantage of their right to have a say in their country's future.

They were proud -- and many of them were in tears.

It is a moment we should not forget -- ever.

In the United States, we do not always understand or appreciate the significance of the rights we have grown up enjoying. We do not cherish the simple act of free speech without fear, or the chance to cast a vote that we know will be counted.

It is the freedom that we as citizens -- and our military men and women -- have promised to protect -- not just in honor of our ancestors, but to hold in trust for future generations.

And now, it is a gift we have shared with Iraq.

The going is not always smooth when you are free. There is no right answer and no one leader to make all the decisions and to claim all the responsibility. Freedom is not easy -- and it shouldn't be. That is how you earn it.

The nation of Iraq and its people are learning that, too, as they struggle to find their own way and to learn how to function as a free nation with a citizenry that has rights and obligations.

No matter what you might think about how they got there or where they are going -- the fact that they have that chance is a gift.

And now, the world is watching another nation face the same struggle.

There are many political reasons to pay attention to what is happening in Iran -- and to think about the implications the actions there will have on the world and this nation.

But it is also a chance to remind ourselves what we love about being Americans and how lucky we are to be in a nation where you can choose how you want to live your life and who will represent you.

It is a gift that we should never, ever take for granted.

Keep that in mind as you watch the news unfold.

Published in Editorials on June 17, 2009 11:22 AM