I received an email message not long ago – it contained these statements:
“It is the VETERAN, not the preacher, who has given us freedom of religion. It is the VETERAN, not the reporter, who has given us freedom of the press. It is the VETERAN, not the poet, who has given us freedom of speech. It is the VETERAN, not the campus organizer, who has given us freedom to assemble. It is the VETERAN, not the lawyer, who has given us the right to a fair trial. It is the VETERAN, not the politician, who has given us the right to vote.”
Truth matters. I wonder if people will ever reach the point where the truth takes precedence over the need to control others.
It is NOT the veteran who gives us freedom of religion. It is the veteran who has gone to war over arguments of religion between cowardly, self-centered people who refuse to understand just what freedom of religion means.
It is NOT the veteran who gives us freedom of the press. It is the veteran who has sacrificed their life because freedom of the press has been interpreted to mean spreading propaganda as fact in an effort to sway the consensus of the masses toward supporting a cowardly, self-centered attempt at controlling others.
It is NOT the veteran who gives us freedom of speech. It is the veteran who has spent years away from their own life under the orders of those too cowardly to listen when others speak from a different perspective, choosing instead to destroy the voices they fear.
It is NOT the veteran who gives us the freedom to assemble. It is the veteran who has been forced to step in when those who should be assembling for themselves do nothing until there is nothing left except war.
It is NOT the veteran who has given us the right to a fair trial. It is the veteran who has faced the injustice of war because cowardly, self-centered people are too afraid of their own weaknesses to allow the truth to stand on its own.
It is NOT the veteran who has given us the right to vote. It is the veteran who has died because cowardly, self-centered people believe money buys the ability to lead others and others simply follow, regardless of the depth of the chasm whose edge they have been led to.
How can there be freedom of religion if we are not willing to tolerate the religions of others?
How can there be freedom of the press if we are not willing to question the information we are given?
How can there be freedom of speech if the speeches we give are nothing more than a criticism of what others are trying to say?
How can we expect the exercise of our freedom to assemble to have any value if the assembled masses are doing little more than throwing temper tantrums at not being in control?
How can we expect fair treatment in a court of law if we are not willing to respect the laws in our own actions of living?
How can we expect our vote to matter if we do not hold those we elect accountable to their promises and our expectations?
Isn’t each person responsible for their right to believe in the religious teachings of their choosing?
Isn’t each person responsible for their right to knowledge and information – for their own education regarding the affairs they choose to be involved with?
Isn’t each person responsible for giving voice to their opinions and beliefs – and if each person accepts that responsibility for themselves, are they not also responsible for respecting the rights of others to do the same, whether as individuals or in an assembly?
If we are to demand fair treatment for ourselves, isn’t each person also responsible for ensuring fair treatment before making accusations against the actions of others?
After the vote, isn’t there an individual responsibility for ensuring that each vote becomes more than just a checkmark on an empty page?
If we are in danger of losing our freedom of religion, isn’t it because we have not practiced what we have preached?
If we are in danger of losing integrity in our news reporting, isn’t because we have not asserted our right to know and understand the truth?
If we are in danger of losing our freedom of speech, isn’t it because we have chosen to remain silent?
If we are in danger of losing our right to assemble, isn’t it because we have wasted the effort when assembled together?
If we are in danger of being treated unjustly, isn’t it because we have chosen to disregard justice?
If we do not believe our vote has counted, isn’t it because we have not risen to hold those we have elected accountable?
If we want the freedoms we claim to be ours, then why are we not taking actions to show we will let nothing and no one take them away?
If we believe our rights to be as important as we profess, then why do we profess it to be the responsibility of our veterans to defend them?
If our rights matter as much as we demand, then why are we not the ones on the frontlines living as if we actually believe what we say?
How can we be free if we are not willing to defend that freedom for ourselves?
MONICA BENDERMAN, and her husband, Sgt. Kevin Benderman, a ten-year Army veteran who served a combat tour in Iraq and a year in prison for his public protest of war, continue to work within their community for peace. They may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.