Advertisement

Art Callaham: Liberty, equality, justice and freedom

June 23, 2013|By ART CALLAHAM

Two weeks ago, Ruth Anne and I returned from a trip to Texas, where we visited our son, his wife and two of our grandchildren. Like your children and grandchildren, they are our future.

As you might have figured, based upon my recent column, we passed through Oklahoma City (we were there to see a couple of softball games at the Women’s College World Series) and visited the Oklahoma City National Memorial at the site of the demolished Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building.

I was deeply moved by the visit to the memorial, moved nearly as much as I was when Ruth Anne and I visited “ground zero” about a month after the 9/11 terrorist attacks. Looking at those 168 vacant chairs, 19 of them smaller to symbolize the children killed in the attack, caused me pause to consider many things, including our state’s recent repeal of the death penalty.

I don’t trust that our state leaders made the right decision. You see, trust is a value that goes both ways. As a citizen, I trust that our government will do the right things and uphold the trust that I have in our democratic ideal.  Moreover, the government must uphold that trust by being trustworthy in its actions relating to “we, the people.”

I just bought a 100-stamp roll of first-class postage, and as I unrolled the stamps I noted that the words “Liberty’” “Equality,” “Justice” and “Freedom” are written under the United States flag and above the word “Forever.” How neat is that, I thought. Those stamps vividly portray the trust we, as citizens, have in our nation and its government to protect those personal and national values we hold so dear — forever.

Yet, recently I have wondered: Is my trust in government well-founded? Is government trustworthy? Is government manifesting the same trust that I, or any other citizen, have in government?

Take for example our state. Is Maryland upholding the trust I have in my state by allowing evil deeds to be punished at a lesser degree than less-evil crimes. In Maryland, a person may be sentenced to life without parole or as much as 25 years in prison for first-degree murder, while a person may be sentenced to as much as 30 years for second-degree murder. Note the difference.

How about really brutal and grievous murder? Does the state uphold my trust to make punishment fit the crime? I don’t think so.

As I focused on the thought about “trust,” I became aware of the radio news report playing in the background concerning National Security Agency leaks, IRS foibles, Associated Press and journalist investigations, the Justice Department investigating itself and the Benghazi debacle. Do these events evoke trust?

At the national level, what is there to trust? Are our national leaders more concerned with party politics or with getting re-elected? I just read about a member of the U.S. House of Representatives who has served for more than 57 years — that’s almost 30 election cycles.

Do we trust the IRS to administer our nation’s tax laws in a nonpartisan manner? Do we trust the bureaucrats in the State and Defense Departments to protect our national interests and to protect our military who go in harm’s way? Is our Homeland Security Department more interested in my politics or my security?

Who’s running the show in Annapolis? Is Maryland truly a one-party state? Is the conservative agenda being heard? Is a one-party system the best system for ensuring liberty, equality, justice and freedom for our citizens?

And how about Washington? Is our nation running out of control? Is Congress polarized to a point of having no real voice in how our nation is run? And is our president, a novice state senator with little proven history in an executive position, capable of managing the “greatest nation on earth?”

Washington, Jefferson, Madison, Franklin and Monroe foresaw a republic based upon democratic principles of representative government as a model for free people. Liberty, equality, justice and freedom were the bulwarks of that vision. Where have we gone since that vision was put into play within our state and our nation? Are we approaching forever?

Art Callaham is a community activist and president of the Washington County Free Library Board of Trustees.







 

Advertisement
The Herald-Mail Articles
|
|
|