Salute the dissenters on this great day

Monday is July 4th. A great day, of course, A day to give thanks to those who fought and made the ultimate sacrifice so that the rest of us can enjoy this liberty and this freedom.

Also, it is a day to applaud those who criticize our government. That’s right. Those that exercise their American-given right to peacefully protest against the way our government is doing its job. The dissenters deserve our recognition as well on this Fourth of July.

Just this past week, I was monitoring a protest against illegal immigration; that is the Latino activists were criticizing the way the government was handling this most difficult of all issues. It is a hot-button topic, especially now.  Could have been a problem. Not so. These protesters were peaceful and, yes, loud, but they had every right to protest and they did. I was proud fo them for doing so.

This country was built on dissent. It must remain built on dissent. That is what makes us free. The soldier has given his or her life for the right to dissent.

The first amendment to our Constitution states: “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.”

By the way this amendment is to try and accomplish “a more perfect union.” Think about that for just a moment, “a more perfect union.”

I believe we forget this all the time. I believe we see protesters and get angry, perhaps thinking: “How dare they? Don’t they know how good they have it?” I know I do from time to time.

This past week, watching these protesters, I did not think that. I thought: “Good for them.” They have every right to take to the streets and say what they want – just as long as they play by the rules. And they did, by and large. I also want to thank the hard-working people who helped keep this protest orderly. They did a great job and deserve our thanks as well.

So, as we celebrate this July 4th – our independence from the draconian rule of the British – let’s remember that our country can do better. Not that it is doing badly, just that it can do better. Because it can. In fact, it must.

This is the greatest nation on this planet. That is my belief. That is why I vote. That is why I served in the U.S. Army during Vietnam. Well, actually my service to my country was motivated by more personal survival reasons, but I did serve and am grateful to have done so. I was not in the reserves, by the way, active duty all the way.

But on this July 4th, let’s take just a moment to thank those who protest. Let’s thank those organizations, whether it be the American  Civil Liberties Union,the National Immigration Law Center, or any other group of men and women striving to make this a better country. Let’s give them a quiet thanks as well. They deserve it.

I say to everyone on this great day of 2011: Happy Fourth of July. And I say that to everyone. Make no mistake about that. I say that to everyone. Foe and friend alike. Stay safe and be well.

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About stevewhitmore

Former award-winning newspaperman and broadcast journalist, both radio and TV, spanning three decades. Army-trained paralegal, court bailiff and prosecutor's lead investigator for the 8th Infantry Division's Judge Advocate General's Corp., Mainz, Germany. 1973-1975.
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