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December 2, 2015 / 20 Kislev, 5776
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It’s My Opinion: Freedom

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A boat was intercepted in the Florida Straits on July 13. A surveillance plane spotted the vessel and directed the U.S. Coast Guard to intervene. The boat held a passenger who had fled the island of Cuba.He was parched and exhaustedand was said to have been adrift for weeks. Rescuers were shocked to see that the seven-foot craft was made of Styrofoam.


Since the Communist takeover of Cuba, thousands of desperate men, woman and children have flocked to the shores of Florida. Often they risk their lives in homemade and rickety crafts. Some are made of inner tubes tied together with rope. Others are makeshift rafts. One amazing “boat” was an old taxicab that incredibly was set afloat. Desperation seems to have inspired ingenuity.


What could drive an individual to make such a perilous journey? What could motivate a human being to put himself through such danger? The answer is compelling.


The quest for freedom is a powerful motivator. It can cause people to act in remarkable ways. Throughout the course of time, revolutions and uprisings, revolts and freedom movements have been sparked by this desire.


The United States of America was created as a bastion of freedom. The Founding Fathers understood how precious this concept really was. Cubans, as well as people from around the world, are aware of this and that is why they flock to our shores.


My family escaped the tyranny of Eastern Europe to come to America in the beginning of the 1900s. They came from shteiblach in Poland and Jewish enclaves in Russian cities. They suffered from state-sanctioned anti-Semitism and stifling government control. They had no prospects of improving their lot. They sought freedom from these injustices. They prospered in this country. Their story is the quintessential American tale.


It is quite ironic that without a fight, war or declaration of intent, America’s citizens have given up many of their hard-won freedoms. Without even noticing, freedoms of choice, finances, business and privacy have been compromised, many within the last year-and-a-half.


The idea of an all-knowing big government (that caused so many to run away from other countries) has incrementally been introduced here. We have exchanged the American idea of free enterprise, that gave us prosperity, for a bail-out mentality that has never worked in any of the places and times that it has been tried.


This seems to be an age that rewards incompetence. The same federal bureaucracy that faces a failing Medicare and Medicaid system has now taken on national health care. The same federal bureaucracy that suffered the debacle of an embarrassing “cash for clunkers” car exchange, now heads General Motors. The same federal bureaucracy that has suffered many breaches of security on its most sensitive computer data has now exposed all Americans to have their most personal and private medical records on a national data bank.


It is time to wake up. Freedom is a priceless commodity. The American people need to be aware of how easily it can be lost.

About the Author: Shelley Benveniste is South Florida editor of The Jewish Press.

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