05/26/13 — Hold on tightly: Values for which so many paid dearly must never be surrendered

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Hold on tightly: Values for which so many paid dearly must never be surrendered

It has become fashionable lately to label anyone who questions the boundaries for the reach of government as just plain "nuts."

And when those who begin the discussion speak of those who express their concern that perhaps there might be too much government interference in citizens' lives, the image they conjure up is a recluse sitting in the woods surrounded by booby traps and guns.

And make no mistake, there are some of those -- they are called the extreme -- just like those on the other side of the coin who carry their views on everything from animal rights to environmental concerns to the far side of normal.

But the revelations over the past couple of weeks about the interference in the tax-exempt applications of conservative groups -- and all the subsequent lying about who knew what, when -- should give us all pause as we continue a weekend meant to honor those who laid down their lives for the freedom we now enjoy.

There is a sad fact about the modern world where so many people are too busy to keep track of what their government is doing and then are surprised when a story like this comes along.

Too many Americans are too willing to sit back and watch as their rights and freedoms are etched away.

Sounds harsh, doesn't it? Sounds extreme, too, huh?

Well, it isn't.

This country was founded on the principles of freedom -- time-honored views of what men could do to determine their own destinies without the benefit of a benefactor (or, despot) who made all the decisions.

Freedom was the watchword and prevention was the calling card -- checks and balances, the right to vote, states' rights -- all those were created to stem the potential for a government to swallow individual freedom and to take over the decisions about the direction of the fledgling nation.

It was a group of founding fathers whose goal was to make sure that citizens had the right to determine their own futures -- and to express their opinions and differences freely.

Sure, there are flies in the original ointment. There are mores that were part of life in the 18th century that are not part of our consciousness today.

We have evolved, changed some of our views on everything from slavery and the rights of women to who should vote and serve in the military.

We have learned many lessons along the way, true, but the most important principles are timeless -- and are as relevant today as they were when the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution came into being.

There are some who say that we hire legislators, congressmen and presidents to do our worrying for us -- that bureaucrats set up the systems that allow us to live our lives without the stress of the day to day concerns of governing.

But perhaps the events of the past couple of weeks are meant to send a message, spiritual reminder if you will, that freedom belongs to the people -- and if its gardens are left untended, and caretakers are unsupervised, it can become weed-infested.

So on this weekend as we remember the men and women who gave their lives to fight for the nation they loved and the rights that were considered basic and sacred -- and the families who had to go on without them -- remember that this nation belongs to you.

We cannot tolerate those who bear false witness, those who run roughshod over our Constitution or who think theirs is the opinion that matters.

We cannot sit back and let them determine the freedom we and all Americans should have or to use their positions as political weapons.

We have to stand up, pay attention and take back the country we own and have the responsibility to care for -- in the name of the thousands of men and women who have died to protect it.

We have to weed the garden -- and the sooner, the better.

Published in Editorials on May 26, 2013 12:42 AM