Engraved large on one of the walls of the Korean War Veterans Memorial on the National Mall in Washington, DC are the words “Freedom is not free.”
It is sad that so many are unable or unwilling to appreciate the truth of this simple phrase or are ready to heed those who have or seek power who distort it.
I cannot think of anything hurting us more today than false and confused notions about the nature of the ideal of freedom.
Recently Rep. John Lewis (D-GA) appeared on Chris Matthews’ Hardball show and in discussion about voter ID laws he said that voting should be as easy as “getting a glass of fresh water.”
He equated requiring a picture ID to vote to Jim Crow laws and poll taxes.
It is particularly troubling to hear this from Lewis, a battle scarred veteran of the civil rights movement.
The National Mall and the streets of Washington are filled in the summer with tourists – many families with kids – visiting our Capital. They can see the collection of symbols and memorials across the Mall testifying to the truth that “Freedom is not free.”
A five minute walk from the Korean War Veterans Memorial is the new Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial, which serves as a reminder of the struggles of the civil rights movement.
A few minutes in the other direction is the World War II Memorial.
And heading back around again you encounter the sad swath of black stone in which the names of over 50,000 lost in the war in Vietnam are engraved.
Looking out over it all at the base of the reflecting pool is Abraham Lincoln, who presided over the blood bath in which more than half a million Americans died in the internecine struggle for the nation’s survival and ideals.
A short ride over Memorial Bridge takes one to Arlington National Cemetery and the flowing green pastures filled with uniform white gravestones of our soldiers fallen fighting our many wars.
The struggle to protect and maintain a free society and to build on it so that we can continue to climb higher never ends.
Certainly someone who put his life on the line struggling for civil rights, like John Lewis, should know this.
How can he possibly conclude that voting – the privilege to make one’s voice heard as part of the ongoing deliberations central to our enterprise of advancing human freedom - should be as easy “as getting a glass of fresh water?”
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