Saturday, September 7, 2013

Reflections on What we Take for Granted.

The Australian War Memorial, Canberra.

This morning as I walked into a polling place to cast my vote in the Federal election, as I've done more times than I care to count since 1979, I reflected, as I always do, how great is the concept of democracy.  The concept of democracy was formulated in Athens in the 6th century BC. Modern democracy traditionally has its roots in America, highlighted by Abraham Lincoln's Gettysburg address on November 19, 1863, delivered months after the Union armies defeated the Confederacy at the Battle of Gettysburg. Regarded as one of the greatest speeches in American history, I would add world history to that:

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.

Democracy and freedom are always tied to war. Millions have given their lives to preserve democracy, and these wars still go on today. Syrian president Bashar al-Assad is just another in a long line of brutal dictators, who inflict suffering and death upon his own people.

While there are reports of some 1.2 million refugees fleeing Syria, and many of them begging for American military intervention, I thought about this as we Aussies peacefully made our way to polling centres. We have it better than we realise, and may take for granted. About 103,000 Australian soldiers lost their lives in wars during the 20th century.

So when you walk into a polling centre today, remember that this right, this freedom, this privilege, came at a very heavy cost, and one we should never take for granted.

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