U.S. remains a beacon for freedom
BY MIKE JONES Associate Editor
Sunday, February 17, 2013
2/17/13 at 7:34 AM
About the only thing most people will know about Presidents Day (Monday) is that the government is shut down. It might open a few parking spaces for the remainder of those who return to work as usual, but it remains one of our quieter "holidays."
It was instituted in 1800, following the death of President George Washington in 1799 as a day of remembrance. Washington's birthday is Feb. 22.
It became an official holiday, along with Thanksgiving, Christmas Day, New Year's Day and the Fourth of July, in 1879. Then in the 1960s, Congress passed the Uniform Monday Holiday Act to make a Monday the official holiday. In addition, they added Abraham Lincoln, whose birthday is Feb. 12, hence, Presidents Day was born.
It's an easy holiday to take for granted. After all, with a few exceptions, the United States has been lucky concerning the leaders of our country. We've also been fortunate to have had the peaceful and orderly exchange of power between presidents - thanks, in great part, to George Washington.
Many other countries have not been so lucky.
What we haven't had, yet, is a woman president, but that will change in the not to distant future.
As we go about our Monday, some remembering our presidents past and others simply going about their day, an important and much more dangerous presidential campaign is taking place on the other side of the world.
Afghanistan has been rocked by war for decades. It remains a fragile country where the government, the military and the police remain corrupt. A country where the main export is heroin, the result of its huge poppy fields. The country was cleansed of the Taliban regime following the attacks of 9/11 and its government has been propped up by U.S. force since.
In the race for president of Afghanistan is Fawzia Koofi. Koofi, the author of a new memoir, "The Favored Daughter," also is a member of the Afghan Parliament.
Left in the sun
That Koofi, a woman, is a member of Parliament is, alone, a great accomplishment. When she was born she was left in the sun to die. She was the ninth child of her mother who shared her husband with six other wives. It was hoped that her child would be a male. That did not happen.
Koofi languished in the sun for hours before someone retrieved her and returned her to her mother.
Over the years, her mother became her hero and inspiration. Koofi attained an education and worked for the education of all Afghan females.
Now, she is running for president. As the U.S. and Afghanistan work through deals of the American withdrawal, the once-feared Taliban has returned to the table. That worries Koofi and many others.
The Taliban, while in power, took all rights away from women. They were considered noting more than chattel. They were not allowed to attend school. They were denied medical attention. They could not go out in public without being accompanied by a male relative and they were forced to wear a burqa. Any violation would often result in beatings, torture and even death.
Koofi now worries that Afghanistan could return to those same dark days. She remains, however, steadfast in her quest to help her country.
She has survived several assassination attempts and expects more. Still, she perseveres.
It is unlikely that Koofi will win the presidential election. It is even safe to say that she might not survive until the election. Even more likely, is that Afghanistan could easily fall back into its dark days.
Still, Koofi holds out hope that democracy will grow in Afghanistan. Despite the problems, she sees progress. She's running for president to prove to the world that her country is progressing.
It is that same faith, that same determination and that same courage that guided our founders through the revolution and beginning of a new nation.
The United States has been the beacon of freedom and democracy for more than 200 years. Those seeking the freedom that we too often take for granted have held to and been inspired by the words and deeds of our forefathers.
Some of those most poignant and important words were uttered in about 2 minutes in November 1863 - Lincoln's Gettysburg Address:
Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent a new nation, conceived in liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.
Now we are engaged in a great civil war, testing whether that nation, or any nation, so conceived and so dedicated, can long endure. We are met on a great battlefield of that war. We have come to dedicate a portion of that field, as a final resting place for those who here gave their lives that that nation might live. It is altogether fitting and proper that we should do this.
But, in a larger sense, we can not dedicate, we can not consecrate, we can not hallow this ground. The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here, have consecrated it, far above our poor power to add or detract. The world will little note, nor long remember what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here. It is for us the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced. It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us - that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion - that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain - that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom - and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.
Those words still apply, not only to Americans but to millions around the world who long for and fight for freedom.
It's why we ought to cheer and pray for the safety and success of Fawzia Koofi and millions more like her. And it's another reason to remember and celebrate Presidents Day.
Original Print Headline: Quiet holiday
Mike Jones, 918-581-8332