The sacrificial side of life
Live free or die. That is what it says on the licence plates in New Hampshire in the USA. That is what you will read over and over again if you ever visit this particular place. Strong words to be sure. Or, to put it plainly: Them are fightin’ words!
This is, of course, only a slogan and likely one of many possible mottoes that could have been chosen. But it is a feisty slogan nonetheless. It caught my attention years ago for the very first time. And even now, I can’t get used to it. The shock won’t go away. Nothing about the lovely landscapes in the White Mountains. Nothing about the beauty of the trees or the hills or the Atlantic ocean. There is nothing subtle or soft in this message.
Live free or die. This simple phrase draws a line in the sand. It represents a stark choice and a firm decision. It suggests collective courage and conviction. It draws attention to hardship and sacrifice in the past and hints at more to come. It makes you wonder, though, what type of freedom is being talked about. It is easy to know when you are dead, but how do you determine when you are truly free?
“I feel so free!” That is what a young man I know had to say after making his way from Cuba to Canada. Much of life, I learned, is controlled by the communist government there. Choices are few and far between. Things that I assume and take for granted are unthinkable not very far away.
“It is very dangerous here and there is no freedom!” That is what a young man I read about had to say about living in the West Bank. Then again, it may have been Gaza. But it doesn’t really matter. The point is that while life is always hard in some respects, it is much more difficult in some places than it is in others.
Have to say that I enjoyed this world a whole lot more before I travelled and read a little history. Liked the lullabies about everybody believing whatever they liked, and living however they pleased, and always getting along, etc. quite a bit more. But when the music fades, and everyone is finished singing the final round of John Lennon’s classic song “imagine all the people…” it is still dangerous walking home. In some parts of the world, walking anywhere at night is a bad idea.
During story time up here in Canada, we were often led to believe that we Canadians were an especially nice group of people. You know…didn’t cause anybody any trouble, tried to help out and lend a hand, keep the peace when we could – that type of thing. And to be fair, it is arguably less crazy here than it is on many other parts of the planet. Yet I doubt if Canadians have paid a very large percentage of the price required to keep it that way.
If Canada had been parked next to Germany or Russia or Iran during the past century, Canadian culture would have looked much different. And life overall would have been much more difficult. My home country may not have survived.
Having your life or your country or your civilization threatened is not a small thing. While preparing this post, I learned about a person I know well who recently had their life threatened. I am very concerned. Having been on the receiving end of a couple of death threats myself, I know that it is not a pleasant experience. And I wouldn’t want to encourage anyone to embrace a harmful or hasty response to immediate danger.
Your life is something you should treasure and protect. Your life isn’t something you should quickly throw away.
And yet, freedom isn’t free.
In the future, you may be required to make a very costly contribution for the common good. Your role could turn out to be much larger than you think. You never know. Gotta die some time. Might as well go down doing something that makes a difference – something that could make people truly free.
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