15 May 2018

Freedom’s Dramas

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Humankind has struggled against and at times vanquished oppressors down through the ages.  Tyrannies under the guise of religious conformity, political doctrines and allegiance to charismatic leaders have existed since the beginning of organized society.

Humanity has valiantly combatted despots, servitude, hegemony and the evils of one group subjugating another.  Wars are fought, societies rise and fall, and countless innocents are the toll exacted in the lust for power, wealth and influence.

A recent visit to Europe brought those dramas, past and present, into sharp focus.  In Barcelona, Spain the evidence of unrest is impossible to ignore as Catalan flags hang from balcony upon balcony…visual reminders of the citizenry’s displeasure with the Madrid leadership.

“They are puppets of the Franco legacy,” declared our tour guide.  “They’re fascists and idiots, selling out their countrymen in pursuit of foolish economic schemes and the follies of wind and solar.  Our Catalonian government leadership has been either imprisoned or live in exile.  We held our election in defiance and they put us down by force.”

He went on to explain that in the Catalan view, Spain should be governed on the model of Canada – strong provincial governments that are quasi-independent and a national parliament modeled on Ottawa.  That would satisfy the Basque independence element, though it recently liquidated its violent charter and vowed to work peacefully for its independence.

A separate language, flag, defiant elections and allegiance to a government in exile mean the light of freedom burns brightly in hearts and minds across Spain’s provinces.  As Spain separated itself from its colonies in the Americas, so too its citizens believe it should grant self determination to “colonies” on the Iberian Peninsula.

Our visit continued eastward to Paris and on to the beaches at Normandy.  Paris has experienced its own litany of violence from the French Revolution to the Nazi occupation, the Charlie Hebdo massacre and just this week violence and murder just outside the Louvre.  Much has been said in derision about the French, but there is no room for diminishing them when it comes to memorials and honoring their rescuers at Normandy.

To stand on Omaha Beach and be on the spot of sacrifice by so many is an emotional and moving experience that defies description.  An overwhelming sense of relief, gratitude and horror at what might have been is unforgettable.  When an aged gentleman passes by one on the beach and slowly salutes the sea, tears well up.

The graveyards so meticulously maintained, the museums with their war film footage, relics of battle and finally walking the bunkers and placing your fingers in the bullet holes and destruction by allied armor shells – all give rise to gratitude for valiant young men and women willing to pay the ultimate price for freedom.

Perhaps many of us feel that gratitude on Memorial Day, D-Day, Independence Day and Veterans Day.  We should.  We have achieved that freedom to a degree our founders conceived, and maybe even believed would come to pass.

But many others do not enjoy such liberties.  Uprisings in Tehran against the mullahs, across Russia in protest of the “election” of the puny, shirtless murderer, peasants fleeing Venezuela where despots starve the citizenry and waves of Central Americans arriving at the USA doorstep all give testimony to the relentless search for freedom, self determination and a better life.

And now even a glimmer of hope shows in North Korea where the insanity of leadership demands that all must keep clapping, all must adore and all must submit.  That rogue state could be entering an age engagement, perhaps even a subtraction of nuclear weapons.

We’ve entered the season of celebrating and commemorating our costly and richly earned freedoms – just passed VE Day, Memorial Day, the anniversary of D-Day, Independence Day and at summer’s end VJ Day.  It is well to mark these milestones and to give pause for those not so fortunate.  It is also well to be mindful of the role that the oil resource has played and continues to play in freedom’s dramas.

The allies rode to victory in World War II on a sea of US crude.  Egypt’s Nasser closed the Suez Canal in a move targeting Israel’s allies by shutting off oil supplies in the mid-1950s.  The Saudis embargoed the US in the early 1970s and ran up crude prices.  Russia bullies its neighbors with price threats around its oil and natural gas exports.  Iran uses its oil revenues to fund terrorism and assist North Korea’s nuclear ambitions.  Venezuela nationalized private industry’s oil investments to fund its adventurism in Latin America and prop up Cuba.

The role of hydrocarbon resources in the quest for freedom should not be underestimated.  We’re delinquent should we not use this valuable resource to its fullest, best use on every front.  We should be grateful for its abundance and the ingenuity of our industry to extract it.   Such gratitude pairs perfectly with our gratitude for the resolve of our forbearers in pursuing and achieving the freedom we today enjoy and celebrate.

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