Freedom Isn’t Free
We ate outside, celebrating America’s Independence Day. The sun shone on our backs, and the gourmet burgers and hot dogs and potato salad and corn on the cob and apple pie and ice cream filled our tummies as the conversation with my mother and Don’s oldest son fed our spirits.
July 4th is a meaningful holiday for me. It is the date of my father’s birth. His father, my grandfather, was a pastor/farmer in a small village in the Ukraine, where Dad spent his early years. Eleven years later, grandfather was told by men in his church that he needed to leave their village immediately to avoid deportation to Siberia. By God’s grace his family was in the last group of Mennonites given visas to leave Russia near the end of the Bolshevik Revolution. Dad’s family made up seven of about 5000 allowed to leave the country; some of the remaining 10,000 were sent back to their villages; many were arrested and sent to work camps in Siberia; others were executed. Dad’s family went to a refugee camp in Germany for four months, then emigrated to Canada, where he later met and married my mother.
So I grew up hearing bits and pieces about secret police, about Red and White army soldiers being billeted in the homes of these peace-loving Mennonites, about bandits who sometimes decimated entire villages. I sometimes had nightmares about war, and would waken Mom and Dad until they calmed me enough to go back to sleep.
After we moved from Canada to the United States, we teased Dad about all the firecrackers set off in his honor on his birthday. Having a father born on July 4th under an oppressive government has made me quite aware of the value of freedom.
My mother and I traveled to the Ukraine in 2006. We saw and heard evidences of oppression.
- In Odessa I saw young women who looked hesitant to smile; like they weren’t sure they could trust this new freedom.
- No extra value was placed on special knowledge or years of education. A pediatrician earned the same amount as a laborer.
- With no kind of social security, elderly women sat on the ground, begging.
Once again I was reminded of the blessings of our independence. But freedom isn’t free.
I am deeply grateful to those who have sacrificed for our independence, our freedoms to follow our consciences, to worship as we wish, to educate our children with our values. But we cannot take that freedom for granted. Some of it is being eroded every day as we lose privacy and as we become so politically correct we fear having honest, respectful interactions.
I find great hope in knowing that the freedom given through faith in the God of the ages cannot be legislated–either yay or nay–but only received and followed, or rejected.
What’s important to you about our freedoms, both personal and national?