Independence Day

I went up Arapahoe Pass in the Indian Peaks Wilderness this morning. While holiday weekends make for crowded trails, I love that so many folks celebrate Independence Day by hiking in Colorado’s magnificent wilderness areas and national parks. I also love the Lions Park part of 4th of July as well, and I’ve got no complaints about the BBQs everyone I know seems to be having later this afternoon. Independence Day is about community and family and celebration, and Golden surely rises to the occasion.

I also think Independence Day begs reflection on what it means to live in a free society governed by a constitution that enshrines so many fundamental human rights. I appreciated Bill Winter’s blog post this morning on Daily Kos. Winter – who is running to unseat Tom Tancredo in Colorado’s Sixth Congressional District – quoted from the diary of a soldier killed at the First Battle of Bull Run during the Civil War. Major Sullivan Ballou wrote:

The freedom that I so often take for granted, the government that I occasionally curse, and the rights from which I so richly profit every day, have all been provided to me, at no cost to myself whatsoever, by sacrifices that I cannot begin to imagine, made by men and women that I will never know!

There is no way that I can ever repay that debt except to be prepared to offer that same sacrifice if I am ever called upon to do so!

I can’t help but think of the men and women that are today serving our country in Iraq (and in Afghanistan and elsewhere in the world), risking their lives, and all too often dying. Several weeks ago we passed another horrific milestone in Iraq: 2,500 American military personnel dead. Nearly 20,000 have been wounded, and I haven’t any idea how Iraqi civilians have died. I don’t know what the answer to this quagmire is, but the Bush Administration’s current approach, what blogger georgia10 calls our “stay the course until we drive off a cliff strategy,” ain’t working.

I know there are some who believe that it is unpatriotic even to ask questions about the war in Iraq or the President’s war strategy. I think that’s wrong, and instead believe that it is our obligation as citizens to ask hard questions, to hold our elected representatives accountable to their decisions, and to use democratic and civic processes to fix the things that are broken. In this case, you don’t need to believe that beginning the war was a mistake in order to recognize how abysmal the Bush Administration’s prosecution of the war has been.

I want to honor our soldiers’ sacrifices, and the countless sacrifices of their families at home, and I never want to forget that the values we so cherish and often take for granted must sometimes be defended with blood, but not every war fought in the name of defending America makes sense. I am one of the large and quickly growing chorus of Americans who are insisting that Congress and the Bush Administration figure out how to end this tragic debacle.

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