By Kenneth Kowald
In the late 1930s, there was a ballad entitled “The Lonesome Train.” It had a leftist slant, maybe even communist. It was about Abraham Lincoln's death. It depicted the sad journey of the funeral train from Washington, D.C., to Springfield, Ill.
I remember some of the words and music, but one couplet has stuck with me through the years. I think it is powerful: “Freedom's a thing that has no ending,/It needs to be cared for, it needs defending.”
July Fourth marks the beginning of the United States' journey toward freedom. To get past the speeches and sales events is not easy, but it is worth pondering what freedom means in our country.
Those who suffered in slavery and degradation now have an acknowledged leader at the head of a political ticket. Regardless of the outcome of the upcoming election, this landmark event will mark the continued march of freedom here and serve as a signal for the world.
We need such a signal today. For the last eight years, our country has been in the hands of those who have no respect for their fellow Americans' freedom and care only about their own interests. Their hubris has dealt the nation and our friends around the world a shock.
If we think back over those years, we can recall many instances of this assault on freedom. It is painfully detailed in the book “Bush's Law: The Remaking of American Justice” by Eric Lichtblau. This is a somber and terrifying compilation of how freedom has been curtailed for prisoners taken in combat and Americans.
We allowed this to happen. Who has protested about this highjacking of our government? Until recently, the U.S. Congress was subservient if not a willing partner in destroying of our legal values — even when President George W. Bush has made clear that he will decide what legislation to follow. In effect, he has told the world that United States law is what he says it is.
We have, thanks to our complacency, reached the point where we may ask, as was asked about Julius Caesar in William Shakespeare's play, “Upon what meat doth this our Caesar feed that he has grown so great?”
He has been surrounded by sycophants who have benefited from his largess. He values loyalty, we are told, but a loyalty to himself, not the Constitution, which all public servants swear to uphold.
Reports have exposed the lies of this arrogant administration. They are lies that have led to the death and maiming of tens of thousands of American men and women.
The inside books and comments have come too late to stem the vicious tide of authoritarianism that reeks from 1600 Pennsylvania Ave. and the U.S. Naval Observatory, where the gray eminence and puppet master of this infamous regime lives.
We can be thankful that the U.S. Supreme Court, at least, has attempted to uphold the values upon which this nation was established. In the latest case, Justice Anthony Kennedy, writing for the 5-4 majority, wrote:
“The laws and Constitution are designed to survive, and remain in force in extraordinary times. Liberty and security can be reconciled; and in our system they are reconciled within the framework of the law.”
It has been said that eternal vigilance is the price of freedom. Let us remember that as we recall tomorrow the brave men and women who placed their lives, fortunes and sacred honor on the altar of freedom so that most of us still have that freedom.