The freedom to complain

When I was at the mall today, I saw a man with an anti-Obama protest banner. Judging from the things he was complaining about, it seemed like he was a disappointed liberal. So now, we have people on the left as unhappy with President Obama as people on the right. Talk about bringing the country together!

Seeing this protest so close to the Fourth of July, I thought about one of the freedoms we enjoy in a democracy — the freedom to complain.

As an American, I’ve had plenty to complain about over the years. Certain presidents, certain policies, certain wars we foolishly stumbled into, and of course, certain tax increases and budget cuts. One thing I’ve never had to complain about is not having the freedom to speak my mind. I look at other countries around the world where people are rounded up, tortured, and executed for expressing their beliefs. I am fortunate to live in a country where I don’t have to face such fear.

My new novel is about a country where people lived under a series of dictators for a hundred years. It made me think about how hard it is to fight for freedom and how easy it is to squander it away. The way we defend freedom is by speaking out, standing up for what we believe in, and demanding better of our country, its leaders, and ourselves. This is why the freedom to complain is so important.

The freedom to complain comes with the responsibility to propose solutions. Simply pointing fingers and calling names is the cheap way out. The goal is complaining is to open a conversation, not simply to shout at one another. It should open a conversation that weighs alternatives and finds a solution that benefits all. So, complaining must be done with respect and a willingness to listen.

An atmosphere of civil debate can help make our country strong and overcome the problems we are facing. But it begins with the freedom to complain.