This Fourth of July, Let's Inaugurate a New "Freedom Summer"

Today America's freedoms are facing an unprecedented and highly organized assault. Our rights of speech, assembly, a free press, and privacy are under attack. Even the right to freely choose our leaders through free and fair elections is in danger.

It's not about Left vs. Right or Blue States vs. Red anymore: It's about a small but powerful group of New Tories who are intent on subjugating the rest of us -- and they're well on their way. The only way to fight them is by becoming the New Patriots, the New Rebels, the new colonists fighting for freedom.

That's all well and good, you say, but how? We'll try to figure that out together, using a new website. But here are some guiding principles:

Don't mourn, organize. We've all bitched enough. Take action. "But," you say: "There's nothing I can do. Dick Cheney and his pals have all the power. They control the media, the voting machines, every branch of government. They'll pick the next President, too. We're powerless against them."

Well, you may be right. But as we kick off the summer season with our Fourth of July celebrations, promise yourself you'll do one thing for freedom -- just one thing -- before the summer's over. Even if it's just a symbolic gesture, like the one I'm about to suggest, the ripple effect may do the world some good.

And, what the heck -- even if it doesn't, you'll feel better.

Here's another suggestion: Don't mourn, celebrate. Many of us lead our entire lives wishing we could be part of a historic moment, called upon to meet a challenge so profound and so important that future generations will thank us for our accomplishments.

The Revolutionary War heroes, civil rights leaders, the Greatest Generation ... some people look on these figures and wish that they, too, had been called by history to a higher purpose.

Here's something to celebrate as you watch those fireworks and eat those hot dogs: This is our moment. America needs us. Think I'm kidding? Look around you. Our liberties are melting as fast as the snows of Kilimanjaro.

"An Inconvenient Truth" has reminded everyone that the Earth needs us. Well, guess what? Freedom needs us, too.

Here's my first suggestion: Let's dedicate this summer to freedom itself -- and, particularly, to America's freedoms. In fact, let's call it "Freedom Summer 2006." The name honors the brave souls who took part in the civil rights struggle during that first "freedom summer" of 1964.

These men and women risked everything during their Freedom Rides. They were young and old, black and white, male and female, Northern and Southern. Many of them were wounded, and three of them made the ultimate sacrifice for freedom when they were kidnapped and tortured to death in Philadelphia, Mississippi. (Remember their contribution on this Fourth of July, too. )

Remember something else: This fight belongs to all of us. This is not a Republican/Democrat issue, or a Conservative/Liberal one -- at least it shouldn't be. The people we're facing aren't really "conservative." They're guided by personal profit, not principle. That's why I call them the New Tories.

This Fourth of July, we're declaring our independence from the New Tories. "Freedom Summer 2006" is just a website, but it's a start. (Actually, right now it's a technically a blog, but hopefully a true website is coming.) It's not mine -- it's yours, if you can keep it. The idea is that its readers are its creators. The inspiration is "Sorry Everybody," which moved so many people after the 2004 election.

Here's how it works:

You provide the content : You submit any content you like, provided it's in keeping with the "Freedom Summer 2006" theme. It can be text, photo, video, audio, or any combination of all of them. A suggestion, though: if it's text, video, or audio -- try to keep it short.

You can post anything that you want to share with your fellow freedom-lovers -- at home or around the world. Here are some ideas:

What I love about our freedoms : What's your testament to our embattled liberties? Do you have an anecdote, an image, or a recording? Share it with the rest of us. It could be the inspiring story of a poor person voting for the first time, a whistleblower rescuing sick children from pollution -- or just memories: of chasing Carolina fireflies at a summer picnic, or listening to Sly & the Family Stone sing "Hot Fun In The Summertime" while splashing in the local pool. Doesn't matter -- share it with us.

Let us know how much you appreciate our liberties. We'll take all your contributions and turn them intoan "open letter," a tribute to our way of life and a vow to protect it. Your words will go to our leaders, our country -- our world.

Honor our "Freedom Heroes": I've already honored Goodman, Chaney, and Schwerner. They died for our voting rights -- rights that are under attack in the ghettoes of Cleveland and the small towns of Florida. Who else should we honor? John Peter Zenger, who was imprisoned for criticizing his political leadership in a newspaper? Tell us.

Build a community : Got an idea for defending freedom in your area? Got an organization you want to build? Here's the place to do it.

Make concrete suggestions : How do we mobilize around the issue of protecting our freedoms? How to we reach out to other Americans, in different walks of life and of all political persuasions, to tell them what's at stake? What are some steps we can take to win this battle?

Propose a "freedom slogan": Here's my attempt, because I hate the terrorists and love our liberties: "I pledge to defend our freedoms against all enemies, foreign and domestic." But let's face it -- I made it up, and it's lousy. You can do better.

There will be some simple rules: 1) There will be no comments -- it's not a blog, although it sits on "blogger" right now. 2) You have to contribute in the proper spirit. If you want to debate other contributors, or the idea itself, take it elsewhere -- like the comments section of the Huffington Post. 3) It's all "for fun and for free" -- no hustling any personal projects.

Other than that, it's all yours.

Will this catch on? Who knows? Statistically, probably not. If it doesn't, there's no real harm (except that I look like an over-idealistic dork, severely challenged in the all-too-requisite "irony" department -- what else is new?) But if it does, we'll have something to inspire us, cheer us up, sustain us, and help us move forward.

And that would be something to celebrate next Fourth of July.

(for information on how to contribute, go here.)