The Fourth

July 4th is just another day here in Canada, but back home in the United States, people are observing ‘Independence Day.’

Admittedly, I’m a bit jealous I don’t get to partake in the BBQs, carnivals, parades, alcohol, and fireworks.  But what bothers me more than missing out on the festivities is seeing the holiday’s underlying theme being championed.

Originally, the 4th of July commemorated America’s independence from British rule, but over time it has come to celebrate the general freedom of the American people.  And despite how proudly people fly their American flags and wave their sparklers, I can’t help but think how the entire ordeal is a sham.

Sure, I’m somewhat biased — I’m a guy who lost the freedom to work in his native country.  And while I’m thankful I was able to turn a negative into a positive (through travel, meeting new people, learning about myself and other cultures), that doesn’t excuse the United States Government for imposing hypocritical and illogical legislation on the American people.  A country forbade its citizens from playing online poker and has the audacity to call itself ‘Land of the Free?’  Oh the irony.

So what?  That particular law only adversely affected a handful of people, those who play(ed) poker.  If it were just one particular law, maybe we could pretend that it wasn’t a big deal and sweep it under the rug, but it isn’t just one law — there are several others in effect limiting essential freedoms.  At this point in time, more than half of states in the U.S. still don’t recognize same-sex marriages, effectively treating homosexuals as second class citizens.  And recently, the Supreme Court decided that a woman’s access to birth control can be denied by her employer’s religious affiliation.  Poker players, women, homosexuals are groups that might seem unconnected, but there’s a common link: all three are having their freedoms restricted because of the religious/moral beliefs of others.  It’s a disgusting, deplorable trend becoming all too common in the United States and one that will continue to gain steam unless its citizens decide to take a stand.

I’m reminded of a quote by Martin Niemoller, which according to Wikipedia, refers to the “cowardice of German intellectuals following the Nazis’ rise to power and the subsequent purging of their chosen targets, group after group.”

First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Socialist.

Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Trade Unionist.

Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Jew.

Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me

On this independence day, speak out.  Defend not just your own freedom, but the freedom of others.  Or you’ll have it taken away from you.