Freedom of expression makes America great, according to librarian

Literary Junction
Thursday, August 16, 2018
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This Thursday, Aug. 16, is a rather special day for me. It was on this date 40 years ago that I graduated from U.S. Marine Corps boot camp at MCRD in San Diego. To commemorate the date, I even got myself a new “going to Billings” hat that says “I Served I Stand.”

I’ve always liked that phrase. It, of course, is referring to standing during the playing of our National Anthem. I still support a person’s right not to stand, but I stand and will do so even if the whole room around me is not. For me, it is a way of celebrating the greatness of America. 

I know many will argue with me that America is not great. There is too much racism, too much gun violence, too big a gap between rich and poor, too much homelessness, and on and on. All of those are very real problems, to be sure. I’m certainly not saying America is perfect, but I know of nothing better.

If I want to learn more about the religion of Islam, for instance, we have a copy of the Qur’an at the Big Horn County Library. It’s located just around the corner from the front desk where I work, very easy to find. I can check it out today if I choose. I wonder if I’d be able to find a copy of the King James Bible as easily in some countries or, for that matter, what risk I would be running by having a copy of it in my possession. 

Should I want to learn about communism, I easily can get a copy of The Communist Manifesto by Karl Marx or Quotations from Chairman Mao-Tse-Tung at the library. I’m not so sure I would find a copy of the Federalist Papers in the libraries of some countries.

In the library we have another book, entitled Unbelievable, by Katy Tur. In it, Tur gives an account of her experiences while following our current president Donald Trump during the campaign of 2016. She is very critical of President Trump and documents, in her words, his inconsistencies, fact-checks his falsities, and called him out on his lies. Again, I can read this today, should I choose. In some countries, being critical of or reading books critical of the government is a good way to find yourself thrown in prison.

These are just some examples at the Big Horn County Library of the freedoms we enjoy as Americans that those in some countries just don’t have. Again, America is far from perfect. But having travelled extensively in Europe, Mexico, Canada, and having lived for three years in Japan while in the military, I honestly can say there is nothing better and I could never see myself living anywhere else. 

And so it is that when I hear our National Anthem, I say to myself, “I served” and I stand.