How fragile something is that Americans take for granted every day.
Freedom. Independence. The right to do what we want, where we want, as long as we want, as much as we want — until we don’t want it anymore.
We argue about our rights and how far those rights extend. But at the end of the day, and in weeks like this one leading up to the Fourth of July, we pause to celebrate a concept and the country that symbolizes it.
It’s perhaps most ironic that at a time when Iraq is in turmoil after U.S. troops have left the country, historians remind us that this is the 100th anniversary of the “War to end all war” — World War I. It only took the assassination of one official in one country to drag the world into a conflict that set the stage for much of the 20th century’s evolution. When World War I and the war that succeeded it were over, millions were left without freedom they had to wait decades to win. Ironically, the people in Sarajevo where the assassination that triggered World War I started, were among those left behind the Iron Curtain after World War II and the Cold War.
But freedom, like sausage-making, is not a pretty process to watch, witness what’s happening in Iraq. It wasn’t pretty in Israel after that country was formed in 1948 either. There were fits and starts, micro-wars and attacks, threats and treaties, and finally an accord that produced some stability.
What we’ve learned from the 20th century is that sometimes our best patriotic intentions backfire, and Vietnam is maybe the most bitter example of all. History is filled with scenarios that challenge our critical thinking. For instance, what would the world be like today if the shot had never been fired that started World War I. What if our failure in Vietnam would have proceeded the Korean Conflict instead of occurring after it. Would Korea be one communist country today?