I have appreciated all your thoughts, comments, ideas and dissent on this blog site over the last couple of years, many of which have been enlightening and informative. I know we are not always in agreement, but America is a wondrous place where free speech and exercise of our rights give us the forum to espouse whatever opinions we have, so long as we don’t incite the violation of laws or threaten harm to anyone else. Few places on planet Earth allow that. Yet we take it for granted. We think it will always be here. It might not.
As we speak, countries all over the world, including some in Europe are acquiescing to intimidation which will prohibit the exercise of free speech and expression of opinion. The change is happening. Those kinds of restrictions exist throughout Asia, Africa, the mid–east and some places in South America. We don’t want that ever to reach America.
In that regard, please indulge me with a very short story. Not long ago, in preparation for an upcoming performance, I was practicing music with a Russian-born friend who immigrated to the U.S. in 1990. We’ll call him Nicolas. A humble man, he had come to America as a scientist and raised his family here. He played great Russian folk music on guitar, and I enjoyed playing a schmaltzy violin with him.
I mentioned that we would soon get some local publicity for our show. At that moment, the mood changed. With his thick Russian accent he said to me, “No. No. Please, don’t use my name in the newspaper about us playing music.”
“Why not?” I asked, somewhat stunned.
My friend bore a somber look on his face. “Well, ” he hesitated. “No one at my work knows I play this music.”
“So?” I said. “What’s the problem?”
“Well, I don’t want to get fired. You never know.”
Then it hit me. Nicolas’ fears were still mired in totalitarian Russia. He had long left the oppression of strict communism — eighteen years — but communism never left him. It was a stark reminder of how much of the world is prohibited from free exercise of thought and expression. The KGB left a mark on Nicolas that still burned inside his belly.
I am a great lover of this country. I never want to see that happen in America. That’s why I write so passionately about retaining the freedoms our forefathers outlined for us, and that every inch we move closer to a more powerful government controlling our lives is another inch toward the dissolution of our individual liberties. When those inches start adding into feet and yards, then miles, it’s a slow process which we don’t often realize until the end result. Then it can be too late. There are forces at work today who have fierce designs on doing just that. It doesn’t take a scholar to know that, only a person who delves a little and cares a lot.
Meanwhile, I will always respect those who disagree on this site so long as it is done respectfully. I think I’ve only deleted four responses in two years, and that was because of foul or insulting language that had no place on my blogs. And to all my supporters, my deepest appreciation for all the contributions you have made. Even if you do not comment on line, I know you are reading and — when you so choose — passing my articles on to others.
And for those who cannot present logical arguments, and assign me labels like “radical” or “right wing extremist” and so forth, remember the story of Nicolas. I’m only doing my part in preventing you and me from heading in that direction.
Wishing all of you a great holiday, and a wonderful 2010.