On Thursday, January 20, 2005, I watched President George W. Bush take the oath of office as President of the United States. He gave a speech, not unlike that of many Presidents before him, but unlike any I thought to hear again in my lifetime. The theme that has been often missing from our discourse in over a decade since the fall of Communist Russia. I'm not sure about everyone else, but I remember, after the fall of the USSR, I had a dream, to quote another great lover and fighter for freedom. I had a dream that this thing that had been hanging over us since before I was born, now gone, signaled the beginning of a new freedom throughout the world. A time for peace and prosperity. A time when men would bare witness to their common humanity, their common dignity, their common value as men and, recognizing these things, would begin to unlock the shackles of oppression and open up to one another. Sharing ideas and advancing the cause of humanity, not only here, bound as we are to this earth, but to the possibility of reaching beyond even our own solar system and into the unknown galaxy.
I dreamed what I once called "the big dream".
In more than a decade of growing, maturing and learning, I have come to recognize that Communist Russia was only one form, one place of tyranny, oppression and slavery. Throughout the world, there are many other places that have suffered this evil force. I'm not afraid to call it evil because, regardless of religion or creed, anything that holds man back, holds him in slavery, denies him this dream, is evil. Now, like Martin Luther King, Jr, I look out on the world and see that my brothers and sisters are still languishing under the lash of slavery. Sometimes it is the slavery that we think of, the manacled man, beaten and whipped, forced to work for a master and, some times, it is the slavery of men to unjust governments, to tyranny where the only voice they have is the low moaning of men held in the darkest of dungeons who think that they will never see the light of day, the light of freedom, again.
We do not accept the existence of permanent tyranny because we do not accept the possibility of permanent slavery. Liberty will come to those who love it.
Some would like us to think of this slavery as "cultural differences". I call it as I see it: slavery. Until men are free to choose how to live, to choose their government, to have the right to speak freely, to live freely, to worship as they will, to strive as much as they can for their own benefit and not for a corrupt government or authoritarian master, it is slavery.
We will persistently clarify the choice before every ruler and every nation: The moral choice between oppression, which is always wrong, and freedom, which is eternally right. America will not pretend that jailed dissidents prefer their chains, or that women welcome humiliation and servitude, or that any human being aspires to live at the mercy of bullies.
As long as one man is a slave, we are all slaves.
Across the generations we have proclaimed the imperative of self-government, because no one is fit to be a master, and no one deserves to be a slave. (...)
The rulers of outlaw regimes can know that we still believe as Abraham Lincoln did: “Those who deny freedom to others deserve it not for themselves; and, under the rule of a just God, cannot long retain it.”
That is why I have supported the President and supported the war in Iraq. I undertand many things about global resources, politics, economies and security. How these things are all inter-twined. But those alone are missing the essential ingredient: Freedom.
I don't believe I am the only person who believes that. I know I am not. And, yesterday, as I listened to the President give his inaugural address, one of the phrases stuck in my mind: "a fire in the minds of men".
Freedom is a fire burning in the minds of men.
Here, in this post, I wrote several paragraphs explaining the dream of freedom, yet the President summed it up in one sentence: "a fire in the minds of men".
I might have explained once how I came to be blogging. It was simple really, yet I didn't understand how it would impact me or my life. My brother was preparing to go to Iraq and I was trying to get more information on the situation than what was being printed or shown by the news agencies I had available to me. My local paper printed an opinion piece about Iraq and the author pointed me to several Iraqi bloggers. One of them was Iraq The Model, run by three brothers in Iraq. One of them wrote, "I did not live until April 9, 2003." The day that the United States military drove into Baghdad and tore down the statue of Saddam Hussein. Another blogger wrote similar words, "I was born on April 9, 2003."
All my life I have lived in freedom. Yet, I knew it not until I read these men and many like them, telling me, telling the world, what it was like to live in fear, live under the boot of tyranny and what it was like to finally breath the sweet air of freedom. Everything I had thought I knew about freedom, and it was so little, came crashing down. It was like an epiphany, like being reborn through them. I had taken my freedom for granted and these men reminded me, "but for the grace of God, go I". I realized that my freedom could be gone in an instant, taken out from under my very nose or yanked away from an outside force and it was my responsibility to safe guard it and insure that it was here for the ones who came after me.
That idea grew in me until it came to full bloom. Not only did I need to safe guard my own freedom and that of the citizens of my country, but it was my responsibility to insure that freedom for my brothers and sisters, even in lands far away. That's not a new thought for many people, but it was new to me. It was like the President said in his address, "we have lit a fire as well - a fire in the minds of men."
I think that is why that phrase resonates with me. A fire was lit in my mind and I could not put it out. I did not want to put it out. I wanted to feed it, so I kept reading, kept listening. All the things I had to study in civics class, in social studies and history, I went back and read again. Teenagers might be the most impressionable for ideas, but, as a teenager, the idea could not take full form because I was not fully formed. So I re-read the Constitution, the Declaration of Independence, Thomas Paine, Thomas Jefferson, John Locke and many more. I re-read the speech by President John F. Kennedy and his words meant something that they had not meant when I was young. The fire of freedom is burning like a great bonfire now and I want to feed it more until it is "an untamed fire".
That's why I took up blogging. I wanted to express my ideas, formulate them, formalize them and share them with others, just like the brothers did for me. I can only hope that my words have even a modicum of the impact on another person as their words had on me.
Not long ago, I posted to another's blog during a hot debate about the legitimacy of the Iraq war, "I was asleep until September 11, 2001. I am awake now and I refuse to go back to sleep." Well, I'm on fire for freedom now and the fire will not be put out nor smothered by those that proclaim themselves "realists". "Realists" are people who have stopped dreaming, who have let the fire go dim. I say, "burn, baby, burn".
On the same day of the President's inauguration, I received an email from the people at Spirit of America asking me if I would help spread the news and support their project Friends of Democracy, a project that the brothers from Iraq the Model were working on with Spirit of America to bring information, the exchange of free ideas and education about democracy to Iraq and the Arab world in general. I am waiting for contact, but I have also responded to their request to host a free advertisement on my blog for the project.
In short and to sum up my rather long winded response to them, I said, "Hell, yeah, I'll be happy to help out in anyway I can." We need to get the word out, feed the fire, fan the flames of freedom. I'm hoping my other blog friends will help in this endeavor and, believe me, if your reading this and your a true friend of democracy, a lover of freedom, you should help get the word out, too. Those of you on my mailing list, you'll be getting this message soon.
Here's what the good people at Spirit of America and Friends of Democracy had to say in their email:
This is a message sent to bloggers that participated in the Friends of Iraq Blogger Challenge.
We’ve been helping the team at Friends of Democracy with their project to provide countrywide, ground-level news and information on Iraq’s upcoming elections. The goal is to provide a more complete picture of Iraq’s elections from the perspective of the Iraqi people. This effort is a direct result of the funds you helped raise in December.
Friends of Democracy is creating a grassroots correspondent network that they expect will provide information about the elections from Iraq’s 18 provinces. Friends of Democracy is also seeking information from the people of Iraq via blogs and email. This part of the project is described here.
The information coming from Iraq will be gathered and published in Arabic using the Arabic blogging tool Spirit of America developed and provided to Friends of Democracy. More on that here.
The election information from Iraq – reports, photos and hopefully some video - will be available on the Web and will be presented at the National Press Club in Washington on Sunday, January 30 after the polls close in Iraq. We hope C-SPAN will cover the conference. This part of the project is described here.
We all expect that the major newspapers and networks in the U.S. and elsewhere will focus on the expected violence in certain areas of the country. Friends of Democracy seeks to provide more complete picture. The elections are an historic event. Many Iraqis, Americans, Brits, Aussies and others have died to make them a reality. We think that people deserve more than the standard “if it bleeds it leads” approach.
We’d appreciate your help with this project. Here are a few things you can do:
- Blog about this project when the English and Arabic websites are ready (soon, message to follow.
- If C-SPAN covers the Jan. 30 Washington, blog about the broadcast and encourage your readers to tune in.
- Provide a pro bono blog ad for the next two weeks.
- Help us find people we need (see below):
We need an site editor/producer for the English language Web site. That position is described
And, we are looking for people who can develop election coverage graphics for the FoD website and Jan 30th event. People with experience developing graphics for the web and for broadcast would be especially helpful.
Please let us know if you can provide a BlogAd for this project. Tell people you think can help to contact us at email@example.com.
If you have any questions or ideas, let us know.
Jim Hake and the Spirit of America team.
So, there's the challenge to my friends and general readers of this blog. Get involved. Contact Spirit of America and offer to host an ad for their project.
Tell people about the project. Tell them to head over to Friends of Democracy and read what is happening with the Iraq elections.
If you can help with graphics design or other assistance, get in there and do it.
Because, this is the fire I've been talking about. This is the fire that will burn away the lies of oppressors everywhere. This is the fire that will keep us free in the end.
The great objective of ending tyranny is the concentrated work of generations. The difficulty of the task is no excuse for avoiding it.
If you are like me and you've been wanting to get into this fight, but didn't know how, here's your chance. Let's throw some fuel on this fire and make it burn brighter now in the 21st century than it has burned in more than 60 years. This is our chance to be like the generations of our parents and grandparents. This is our fight. I don't know about you, but I don't intend to sit this one out. I'm gonna take it to the enemies of freedom even if it's only one word, one post, one man, one yard of land, one country at a time.
"By our efforts, we have lit a fire as well - a fire in the minds of men."
Let's make it the "untamed fire of freedom" that "will reach the darkest corners of our world."