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It's still a land of the free, thanks to the brave
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Tomorrow, Americans all across the globe will celebrate the nation’s 231st birthday. Since those first few shaky days of democracy, America has become the world’s paragon, the standard for all those who despair or yearn for freedom want to be.

We have seen, all too painfully, over the last few years that there is a heavy toll to pay for the freedoms we enjoy today, freedoms secured and paid for at places such as Bunker Hill, Yorktown, New Orleans and Selma, Alabama, here and Belleau Wood, Chateau Thierry, Normandy, Guadalcanal, Saipan, Iwo Jima, Okinawa, Inchon and Hue in the far reaches of the globe. Sometimes, it’s been at the ballot box. Sometimes, it’s been in a jungle or a freezing cold forest or a vast ocean or the often unfriendly skies.

Most of us will enjoy the Fourth of July with the freedom of a day off from work. For those who ensure we keep those freedoms or strive to bring that same freedom to others, there is no time off.

Even today, we see how there are those who either detest or resent our freedoms, and we are in a fight against an enemy with no clear front lines and similarly muddied rules of engagement as they target women and children as willfully as they do soldiers.

Yet there are still millions, perhaps billions, who still see the U.S. as the land of opportunity. In fact, that’s one of the biggest problems facing our country today — the number of people who are here now illegally.

There are also millions thankful the U.S. has thrown off their yoke of totalitarianism, be it in Central and Eastern Europe without a shot being fired in anger or in the Middle East, where American lives are on the line every day.

To this day, it is the general idea of freedom and self-determination that remains America’s greatest ideal and perhaps its best export, not General Motors nor General Electric nor General Mills nor General Foods.

At a time when so many focus on what’s wrong with the country, we have already started the process for the peaceful — albeit at times acrimonious — selection for the nation’s next leader. There is still plenty right about our country, even if our direction slips off track every now and then.

If there wasn’t, would so many love us or hate us for what we stand for?