Sunday, January 4, 2009

Dear soldier, thank you for my freedom



I often complain about silly things that happen. I have even been known to write long articles on the injustices that take place around me. I’ve also made big to-do’s over things I think are just ridiculous. American things.

Well, I take them back. The things I’ve said against America anyway. Not all of them, but a few. Like saying our government is too involved in our personal lives. I discovered this morning that it could be so much worse.

Gambia is a small country in Western Africa. As a matter of fact, it is the smallest country on the African mainland. A man named Yahya Jemmeh is the ruling president having siezed his power in a 1994 coup.

In 2002 he implemented a democratic civilian government and was then elected to the position he had seized. It is my opinion that he’s nothing more than a schoolyard bully and the people were afraid to not vote for him. He was quoted by a state journalist as saying “I will develop the areas that vote for me, but if you don’t vote for me, don’t expect anything.”

In 2006 a plot to overthrow him was discovered and many army officials were arrested while other prominent army officials, including the army chief of staff, were said to have fled the country.

Today Gambia is back in the news. A British couple that were running a missionary there have been arrested for talking badly about the government. Specifically they were arrested for sedition (covert conduct that is deemed by the legal authority as tending toward a rebellion against the established order). They were sentenced to one year in prison with hard labor and a fine. For writing emails. That’s all they did. Criticized the government in emails that they sent out to their followers. I couldn’t believe it.

The Fultons (he is 60, she is 46) were running an educational center there through their church Westhoughton Pentecostal Church in northwest England. They also provided medical care to prison inmates and terminally ill people that could only be reached by boat.

They officially apologized to the President and promised in a letter to never speak or write of Gambia or their government again. They also promised never to return to Gambia without his permission. They are asking for clemency and to be able to return to the United Kingdom with their young daughter.

As I sit here writing this, thoughts of my freedom are running through my head. I couldn’t imagine living somewhere that the government was so far into my life that I had to worry about what I said or wrote. Or wasn’t able to have my own opinions and express them freely.

If you ever had any doubt as to why our children, siblings, spouses and friends are fighting in wars, this should be an answer. They are fighting for our freedom. They are fighting for our rights. For our opinions and ideas. For our voice.

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