Socrates said “an unexamined life is not worth living” and someone else said “an examined life has no bargain.” Freedom cannot be bargained indeed. 

Seven years ago, after backpacking around the world, I returned to this small village to live, and encountered the Memorial Day event. With the delight and pride, I could not help writing an article about it and it got published on the local newspaper – the Landmark. My intention was merely to help reminding our citizens of what Americans truly stand for, and encouraging the youth to carry the torch.

On this Memorial Day, as soon as I walked into St Mary’s community center, immediately I embraced the double-sized crowd, and the collectively upbeat vibe in the air. The ceremony has been organized even better than ever before, with abundant highlights. … Tom Sisulak’s leadership skills are well crafted in both form and content, remarkably. 

Again, tears rolled down my eyes while the national anthem was beautifully delivered by a 14-year-old local girl. 

Freedom is not free, the soldiers killed in action have left the legacy and expectations. Memorial Day is not just about gorgeous weather or delicious BBQ. We’d have to ask ourselves: What are our solders fighting for? Why did they physically miss the beautiful life we enjoy? Have we done enough to verbally, mentally and spiritually honor their sacrifice? Have we taken it for granted or even screwed up what we have had?

It is not a one day memorial, but constant contemplation. What is it to be American? What is the American Value? How shall we explain them to our children?

I was not born an American, but chose to be one as an adult, and my freedom did cost me tremendously. My favorite statement which coincides with the music band U2’s phrase “America is not a country, but a human idea.” …

My birth country, China, was ravaged by the communist regime, and in later years, I witnessed the tyranny of the Middle East and deteriorating human conditions. 

Personally, my calling is to be a freedom fighter and a spiritual warrior, to defend the defenseless, in my own way. As a lifetime student, my peripatetic path around the globe and observations have empowered me to speak the truth. …

This country has been divided more than ever before and the recent election was manifested it with no doubt. Folks in New York City seem to live in a totally different world than those in Texas and speak very different languages. 

For a long while, American middle class are disappearing and American manufacturing glided into apocalypse in no time. Being a problem not a solution, our government became obese and dysfunctional that its monetary policy and fiscal policy have strangled economic growth standing in the way of the American Dream. …

The youth are hungry for leadership so they could get off both financial and mental dependency. How can we nurture them? And most of all, how can we glue back our broken spirits at the current time of our history?

My thought is: the Memorial Day program should be one of the tools. It is the time to exam, to teach and to pass on. The pride of being Americans is the pride of being kind and generous, being the disciples of love and peace. Here we worship God, not the government or any tyranny. We shall continue to believe in our freedom and independence, and thrive upon our self-reliant DNA. 

Our youth ought to be encouraged to take the unpaved path, and dare to challenge status quo, cultivate the maximum benefit from freedom, independence, diversity and creativity which induce the best in human condition. Then our freedom fighters will smile back to us from heaven. Let the freedom ring.

May God bless our shining city on the hill.

Jing Lerch is a Riverside resident.