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Smyrna/Clayton Sun-Times
  • Mark L. Hopkins: Evidently, freedom isn’t for everyone

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  • George H.W. Bush was not known as a spell-binding speaker, but he did get off some really good lines in some of his speeches. In his 1989 inaugural address he said, “The day of the dictator is over. We know what works: Freedom works. We know what’s right: Freedom is right.”
    It would seem that when those words were spoken in 1989 they were true beyond argument. The former Soviet Union was no more. The Cold War was over. All around the world people seemed to want the same things: democracy, free trade, free speech, freedom of conscience, freedom from want, freedom from dictators.
    Unfortunately, here we are a quarter of a century later and the dictators are back. We experienced what the media called the “Arab Spring” where the theocracies of Egypt and Tunisia went through major revolutions, and other Mideast countries seemed to be leaning that way as well. Now all seem to have swung back in the other direction. That is also true in Hungary, Turkey and Pakistan, where each experimented with free elections for a time. All are now clearly back in the dictator’s column today. And Russia has been holding free elections since the late 1990s. But Vladimir Putin served as president from 2000-2008, as prime minister from 2008 to 2012 and as president again from 2012 until now. Is there any doubt that Putin is a dictator with a different title? So what in the name of freedom is going on?
    Let’s admit that democracy is hard to create in a country where it hasn’t existed. Education for all and a free press are basic building blocks of a democracy, which are lacking in the countries listed above. If you study each of those countries, you will find either a “controlled” media, a poor or non-existent education system, or both.
    Also, we should admit that we view ourselves as the shining democratic example, the city on a hill, so to speak, and we haven’t been beacons of stability and progress in recent years. It has been hard for those unfortunate populations to look at us and envision our approach to governance as an improvement for their countries.
    If we want others to follow our example, we need to get our house in order and become that shining beacon. We need to model freedom and a free society living together in peace and prosperity. How long will that take? How long can the world wait? How long will we tolerate the mediocrity we are slipping toward? Answering these questions is key for our future and for the world that is watching us.
    Dr. Mark L. Hopkins writes for More Content Now and Scripps Newspapers. He is past president of colleges and universities in four states and currently serves as executive director of a higher-education consulting service. Contact him at presnet@presnet.net.

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