When I immigrated to the United States in the late 1970s, I was 17 years old. Most of my family was still in Iran, and with the exception of my brother and his wife, I didn’t yet have many connections here. So I spent time with my sister-in-law’s family, including her father — a Czechoslovakian-born American citizen who served in, and then retired from, the U.S. military.
I clearly remember an early conversation with him in which he told me, “Bahram, America is the greatest country in the world. Here, you have the freedom to be free — if you’re smart enough.”
He went on to explain that our attention is often directed toward issues that drive certain agendas but don’t necessarily protect our freedom. It’s on each of us, he stressed, to notice when we’re being distracted and reclaim our focus, to never take freedom for granted, and to always do our part to protect it for generations to come.
His words have been echoing in my mind recently because of the way so many aspects of our lives were quickly upended by the coronavirus. To a degree, we have experienced what it’s like for our freedom to be limited — and we are now more awake to how important it is to have and fight for.
Just as our forefathers bravely fought for a better way, we too must do what we can to preserve that liberty and pursue happiness — those unalienable rights that are detailed in the Declaration of Independence.
To do this takes a willingness to look at our current situation from all perspectives — to go beyond the headlines and surface-level information for the facts and to learn the truth for ourselves.
We have to be open to the discomfort of other positions and viewpoints — because how things appear to me over here may very well look different from where you’re standing. Think of a six-sided cube: From most angles we can only see three sides; to assume the other three look exactly the same limits our ability to see other possibilities.
As I think about the freedom that my sister-in-law’s father and thousands of others have fought and sacrificed for — and that we are all responsible for protecting — I also recognize courage. The two are inseparable building blocks of our nation’s foundation.
It’s with these sentiments that I wrote the following for my website a few weeks ago. As we mark the 244th anniversary of our great nation’s independence, I’m sharing it with you here in hopes that each of us recognizes and accepts our civic duty to be courageous about protecting our invaluable freedom.
We Are Americans
Together, we have become the greatest nation because of the courage and freedom of those who came before us. Those who, despite fear, had the courage to move forward. Who understood the power of freedom and knew it was their responsibility to protect it.
It’s because of their courage and freedom that we also have the strongest economy and are truly the leaders of free enterprise.
And now, the country we’ve built, and the people we care for, are under assault: attacked by a virus, besieged by a collapsing economy. Constantly bombarded with distorted facts, and shrapnel of agendas and opinions.
Our precious freedom, once strong, has quickly become fragile. Our democracy threatened, liberties compromised, a promising future at risk.
As Americans, we are called upon now to rise and defend what is sacred.
To commit to our own courage and press forward. To acknowledge our fear, and then fight it.
And the way to fight fear is with facts. It is time to dig deep. Decipher the data. Apply logic.
Look at all viewpoints and see every perspective. Nothing is as it first appears — never as good, never as bad. The first glance may give you one angle, but just like the six-sided cube, there are multiple sides to every story.
Even what seems like dire situations provide opportunities to grow, gain strength, acquire knowledge.
Facts — examined through the lens of multiple perspectives — will allow your brilliantly capable, beautiful mind to come to its own conclusions.
It is in the mind of each citizen that courage and freedom start.
And together, through one collective beating heart, we answer the call to protect and care for the country we love.