Eternal Vigilance: The Price of Civil Liberty Prt 1
Introducing our "son of the soil".
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First published: March 22, 2006
On a cold Monday morning 20th of February, I reached out for my car stereo and tuned the dial to a 24/7 talk show radio station so as to catch up with the latest headlines around the globe.
From all the violence that has been raging on around the trouble spots of the world - the forgotten Darfur-Sudan, Northern Uganda, Middle East and many others as you all know to the incidents of rioting and clashes following the publication of the outrageous cartoons of Prophet Muhammad in the media.
A friend of mine was concerned that I was too consumed by news of violence, poverty, conflicts and neglecting myself.
As a result, I made a promise to my family to abstain from listening to stories about politics, war and conflicts around the world for at least a week. To this, I agreed that we had a done deal as long as they prayed so that the divine hand of God would bring peace around the world.
Now, I honestly thought that I would be able to fulfill the promise easily. Little did I know that this would not be that easy? As I drove swiftly on the usually busy interstate highway-while listening to the radio. I came to learn that traffic was not bumper to bumper - because it was a federal public holiday. And because of my own "moratorium" on News for a week, It had not occurred to me that this particular Monday was Presidents day and the talk of the town on early morning radio shows was about past - present presidents and the institution of the presidency as a whole.
This particular show included the usual random line up of what you may call presidential historians and others. These are sort of dignified or undignified individuals who dig for all sorts of information about past and current presidents of the USA.
However, as I kept listening keenly. I was very shocked at how the show degenerated into sleazy talk that you would think you were listening to either an audio version of the national Enquirer tabloid or rather the audio version of the Daily show with John Stewart on satellite XM radio. One of the panelists went to great length to describe Abraham Lincoln and Clinton as some of the former presidents who led and lived a trailer park lifestyle. George Bush is petty, a self-absorbed hypocrite and a nitwit. He is a liar, a cheat, and a low-intelligence weasel. - The panelist bellowed out.
Hush! I thought to myself that this was a harsh tone and I could not help, but draw parallel to the now famous and most popular racy and sensational online- www.radiokatwe.com bulletin or tabloid- whatever you may want to call it.
It was only then, that my mind wandered back to Uganda in silent conversation.
I mused! -If individuals in America have the liberty to express themselves freely as evidenced by the stories I had just listened to.
Then why is the government blocking the access of radiokatwe.com within Uganda? Is Uganda run like a plantation or a company where access on the information super highway is limited to what you need to accomplish your day today job?
The answer to those questions was clear as Machivelli proclaimed five hundred years ago. For those who would rule, he said, its better to be feared, hated than loved.
By now, all but the most deluded among us recognize that the governments blocking of access of www.radiokatwe.com is a crack down on access to information, free speech and expression. Granted- I thought to myself. I do not agree with some of the stories, but that does not change the fact that the right to free speech, expression and information is sacred.
Incidentally, Just when I was finishing writing this article. I found out that the mother of a soldier killed in Iraq had cast a sole "no vote" against a Minnesota senate bill to ban protests and picketing at funerals and memorial service. I gasped in disbelief! For I was touched by the courage of her vote. In an interview she gave to the press outside the state capitol in St. Paul, Lourey who is a democrat in the senate, said she believed her son fought and died for American freedoms - that includes free speech for protesters, even when the protesters speech is hateful and ugly to most people exposed to it.
"He always said that freedom of speech, our Bill of Rights, our way of life needs to be guarded at any cost ", Lourey said of her son.
Therefore, Ugandans need to understand that eternal vigilance is the price of civil liberty. You need to sound the drum when your rights are being taken away like our ancestors during moments of crisis. Like Senator Lourey who lost her only son in Iraq- we need to be a principled people who understand that sometimes tragedy is knowing the right thing to do and be able to do it. Apparently most of us may be ignorant of what Benjamin Franklin said: "They that can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety."
It chills me to know-that doesn't chill more of us.
Next week- I will try to explain the implications of actions such as blocking access to some information of the super highway on ordinary law abiding Ugandans.
Click here: The Price of Civil Liberty Prt 2
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First published: March 22, 2006
Conrad R. Nviri is a gallant "son of the soil" of Buwenge Peri Urban Town, Kagoma County in Jinja district - Currently resident of North St. Paul, Minnesota.
He attended school at Buweera Primary (1982-1988) to Namasagali College (1989-1992) Ordinary level and Busoga College - Mwiri (1993-1995) Advanced level. Graduated with a B.A in Economics, Insurance and Rural-Banking at Agra University, India.
A Ugandan who has lived in the worlds’ two greatest democracies. - India and USA. "I cherish this a great deal and I know I have learned a lot from the experience of living in societies that espouse the democratic principles."
Conrad is pursuing a Masters in Health Informatics and Information Management at St. Scholastica College, MN and hopes to venture into private consulting as well as medical writing and reporting. Prior to this, he had a short stint in the family business where he introduced new innovations for the business. "In my family, we know that money is not a goal to happiness. Happiness is achieved only when you do the things you love, and you do them so well that the people cannot take their eyes off you."