EDITORIAL: Every day, remember the price others paid to let you live free

Monday is Memorial Day, a holiday which honors members of this county’s armed forces who have been killed in war. A memorial at Concord Baptist Church listing the names of deceased veterans buried in that church’s cemetery, as well as the names of deceased veterans listed on marble tablets on the west side of the Tippah County courthouse, focuses attention on the fact that there is a high price to America’s freedom, and Americans’ ideals of self-determination. North Tippah and South Tippah students take many field trips during their years in school. One required field trip should be to that memorial and those stone tablets. As youngsters stand respectfully before the names, they should be read into the price of freedom. Those names should be read aloud by a teacher to their students. They should be required reading for every person, and especially every schoolchild, in this county. Down through the centuries, from the Revolution to the current war in Iraq, over one million American men and women have died defending this country and others from tyranny. To put that figure into some kind of perspective, assume Ripley has a population of about 5,000 people. One million people equals every man, woman and child dead in 200 cities the size of Ripley. Those from across this nation who died were mostly citizen-soldiers. They put on their nation’s uniform in time of crisis. Like their comrades-in-arms who survived, most wanted nothing more than a return to civilian life when hostilities ended. In a way, perhaps the quick and the dead who defended this country did so too well. Our freedoms have been so well-protected that most people take them for granted. Most Americans have never known anything but the right to read what they wish, to worship at the church of their choice, to be safe in their homes against unwarranted police intrusion, to elect from various political parties those who represent them in local, state and national governments, to join the political part of their choice, to cross local or state boundaries without identification papers, the right to speak against the government without fear of torture, jail or death. Perhaps part of that apathy is because since World War II, there hasn’t been a conflict in which the world’s freedom hung in the balance. Also, those wars have been fought on other people’s territory, far from American soil. The thousands of dead and wounded the Iraq and Afghanistan wars have produced come home from abroad, not elsewhere in this country. There have been exceptions of late — The World Trade Center bombing, Oklahoma City, and 9-11 were all on American soil. The overwhelming odds are that we will see more, and quite possibly worse, acts of terrorism in America in years to come, as those who hate us perfect ways to use nuclear, biological or chemical weapons against our homeland. Until then, our lives go on blissfully uncaring. Wars are unpleasant things fought somewhere else, by someone else. We slap a “support the troops’ sticker on the bumper, then turn past the war news to read about the latest celebutante doing a few months in jail. The previous administration – which got us into Iraq and Afghanistan — was very good at demanding sacrifice from the military, but didn’t demand sacrifice from the general public. As a result, we don’t confront the hard question: What sacrifices are each of us willing to make now so our children can live free tomorrow? Catastrophe is brought to us only by newspapers and television. The ones who know differently, of course, are those wars’ survivors – and their next of kin. Perhaps the most prominent threat to this country comes not from those outside it, but those inside it. Those who forget the past, the cause, the cost, are all part of a cancer of apathy. All that’s necessary for freedom’s failure is for enough good people to do nothing. Every day of our lives, each of us should try to live lives worthy of those who died so that we might live in freedom. Every day of the year, remember: Freedom’s price is a life given. Remember the sacrifices others have made so you could live free. And think about what you’re willing to sacrifice so your children can live free.

Southern Sentinel