“Our greatest happiness does not depend on the condition of life in which chance has placed us, but is always the result of a good conscience, good health, occupation and freedom in all just pursuits.” (Thomas Jefferson)
I remember that time in my life when I was just starting to develop a political consciousness. It was way back early in the 1080’s, I was living in Guatemala back then, my country of origin. I thought the way we lived was the way everybody lived. Living under an oppressive government and in constant political unrest that led to many people in my country being killed for things as simple as criticizing the government or think differently than the people in power. The Guatemalan Civil War ran from 1960 to 1996. It was mostly fought between the government of Guatemala and various leftist rebel groups supported chiefly by ethnic Mayan indigenous people and Ladino peasants, who together make up the rural poor. The government forces of Guatemala have been condemned for committing genocide against the Mayan population of Guatemala during the civil war and for widespread human rights violations against civilians were committed. I remember, as a kid, waking up to the sound of machine guns or the cries of a mother, wife, sister whose relatives were abducted by either the oppressive government or the leftists guerrillas. It was a horrible time in the history of Guatemala. Just recently the architect of the military genocide was finally tried and found guilty, but in good Latin American way, he somehow got away again.
I was fortunate enough to be able to come to this country to study and finally settling in here where I also found so many things that I would have never been able to achieve or get back home. Forget about the economic opportunities, the thing that I appreciate the most is the freedom. The Freedom of speaking my mind without the fear of reprisal, the freedom of practicing or not any religion I want , the freedom of pursue my happiness and economic progress.
I have also been blessed to travel and work in many different parts of the world. During all of my travels, I am convinced that despite what most people think we do live in the most wonderful country in the world. I am blessed to live with the protections our system affords. It’s so easy to criticize people, parties, religions, beliefs and, believe me; I do it as much as the next person does. But in these days, I remember what living under siege was back home and how other people live in other countries and I continue to be mindful of how precious freedom is and how important it is to appreciate it when we have it.
Happy fourth of July Fellow Americans.