Last week I had the opportunity to attend Grandparents Day for one of my grand children. The kids closed the event in the gymnasium by singing, with gusto, "My Country 'Tis of Thee".
Samuel Francis Smith wrote the lyrics to "My Country, 'Tis of Thee" in 1831, and the song served as a de facto national anthem of the United States before the adoption of The Star Spangled Banner as the official anthem.
The words go like this...
"My country, 'tis of thee,
Sweet land of liberty,
Of thee I sing;
Land where my fathers died,
Land of the pilgrims' pride,
From every mountainside
Let freedom ring!"
The song ended with the kids beaming with patriotism with the words "Let freedom ring". With the words still ringing off the gymnasium walls I thought about what those words actually meant..."let freedom ring".
I was struck by how few countries in the history of our world have actually accomplished a true freedom and liberty for its people. For a moment I was deeply humbled and grateful for the opportunity to live in a country where our freedoms and our liberties are actually protected by law.
As I went about the rest of my day I couldn't get those words out of my mind..."let freedom ring".
A country that is truly grounded in freedom and the protection of liberty for its people does not allow black-and-white extremism and the radical ideologies of political extremists to enter its main stream political system.
There will always be extremists in a democratic country that allows freedom of speech, but when those extremists are allowed to become part of the political governing body of a country, it almost always results in the Hitlers and Mussolini's of the world removing the freedoms and liberties of the people who voted them into office.
History is full of examples of how easily a totalitarian government can come into power and mute the ring of freedom for its people.
The Nazi movement did not suddenly spring into power in German politics overnight...it was an extremist totalitarian movement that relied on the growing support of the German citizens.
A democratic government protects the freedom of speech but it holds a very high standard of truth and accuracy in its news media so its people can make informed political and economic decisions.
Totalitarian governments rely on the ability to lie and distort the truth so they can inflame the emotions of the people and blind them to the truth.
I have had a growing concern that our country is encouraging and allowing dangerous political extremists to enter our mainline political system. When our news media is allowed to knowingly report lies and intentional distortions as "truth", when political extremists are allowed to publicly malign the character of those who disagree with them in the news media, our country is headed in a very dangerous direction.
An intentional distortion of the facts is called a lie in my home.
Allowing anyone to publicly maligning the character and integrity of someone simply because they disagree with you is a dangerous violation of that person's right to free speech and their personal liberties. In my home I call such behavior abusive.
Unfortunately, I see this kind of behavior growing. It is virtually impossible to know any more what is truth and what is an intentional distortion or an intentional lie in our news media coverage.
A morally credible news media reports facts to the best of their ability. They hold themselves to a very high ethical standard. Especially when reporting political news when our country is entering an important election.
I would like the next generation of children to sing the words "let freedom ring" knowing that they are living in a country that honors that concept.
Our political process is in a shambles, extreme political ideologies are rampant in Washington, and our news media is leading the ideological charge that threatens to silence the "ring of freedom".
Allowing extremism in a country's mainline political system, and allowing a country's new media to lower their ethical standards in what they report as "truth", is a very dangerous path for any nation that wants "freedom to ring".