From The True Cost of Freedom.

Freedom has its price, we are being sternly reminded today; and these brave men and women have paid it on our behalf. So stand up straight, salute the flag, support your veterans, and feel that bracing sense freedom they bought for you in blood.

This is all fair enough, as far as it goes. But I don’t think it goes nearly far enough. The way the right uses this phrase, it describes just one kind of sacrifice — military sacrifice — as though it’s the only kind that matters.

And my objection is that this definition does a grand job of letting the rest of us off the hook. If the soldiers are dying in foreign battlegrounds for our freedom (just as Jesus died on the cross for our sins — the parallels are too tempting) — then for the rest of us, those freedoms are, indeed, free. We can go about our lives enjoying our rights and privileges as Americans, unmolested by the uncomfortable thought that anything will be ever be demanded of us in return. 9/11? Go shopping! It’s the ultimate something-for-nothing. Even the Memorial Day sales at the mall don’t offer deals like this.

I’m old enough to have had an actual civics education, taught by actual civics teachers, and I can tell you that back in the day, Mrs. Herman and Mr. Campbell wouldn’t have let us off that hook nearly so easily. They, too, liked to remind us that “freedom isn’t free” — but their view of the sacrifice required was far more demanding and expansive. They made it clear to us that the payment due wasn’t just about military service (though was an important part of it). It was about becoming a functioning American adult — because the very definition of adulthood, in their view, was in our willingness to step up and make the everyday sacrifices necessary for our own long-term good, as well as the good of our careers, our families, and our country. The fate of the nation, they told us, depended on our unstinting willingness to step up to those commitments, …

A parade of luxury cars isn’t a fitting tribute to America or Americans. Not to our soldiers. Not to their families. Never to responsible citizens dedicated to “turning our country over to the next generation in better shape than we found it.”

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