Let the voice of freedom be heard
September 14, 2011 - The greatest lesson the Chinese students visiting Oxford can return home with won't be learned in any of their classrooms at the high school.
The lesson I'm referring to has nothing to do with mathematics, language or even art and athletics.
The lesson to which I'm referring is how to live in a truly free society, something which I'm guessing they have no experience with given the authoritarian nature of their one-party system government.
When I speak of freedom, I don't mean the crass materialism that often gets mistaken for liberty.
I don't consider a people free because they're able to eat at McDonald's, drive oversized SUVs and visit shopping malls. I also don't consider a people free because their government is practicing its own bastardized form of capitalism and allowing some folks to get rich.
The freedom of which I speak springs from natural or inalienable rights, which are not capable of being surrendered or transferred without the consent of the one possessing such rights.
Living in a free society means expressing opinions and ideas, either verbally or in writing, without the fear of being arrested and imprisoned by the authorities.
Living in a free society means being able to worship as you please without worrying about who's watching you enter a church, synagogue or mosque.
Living in a free society means being able to surf the internet and access any website you wish because the government has not censored or blocked those it deems unacceptable or dangerous to its grip on power.
Living in a free society means reading a newspaper that's been written by independent journalists who have not been told by the government what stories to write or how to write them.
Living in a free society means attending a government meeting and watching representatives you elected debate and vote on various policies and issues.
Living in a free society means being able to go wherever you please, whenever you please and with whomever you please.
By the time these Chinese students return home, I sincerely hope they will have experienced all of these things and so much more. I hope they will have learned what it truly means to be free and that it is man's natural state.
I hope they will infect others in their country with spirit of liberty and perhaps, one day, spark the long-overdue revolution that will finally free the Chinese people from an oppressive and corrupt government that should have been relegated to the ash heap of history long ago.
Who knows? Maybe one of these students can be the next Liu Xiaobo, the Chinese dissident who, in December 2009, was sentenced to 11 years in prison for "inciting subversion of state power."
Liu was arrested for co-authoring Charter 08, a declaration calling for political reform, greater human rights and an end to one-party rule in China. Although he pleaded not guilty to the subversion charge, the defense was not permitted to present any evidence at his trial.
Last year, Liu was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for his two decades of fighting for peaceful democratic reform.
To the world, Liu's a hero. To the Chinese government, he's a dangerous criminal that must remain locked away.
There's a lesson in that, too, and the question these Chinese students must ask themselves is, "Do I want to continue to live under that kind of tyrannical government or do I want to actively work to change things?"
CJ Carnacchio is editor for The Oxford Leader. He lives in the Village of Oxford with his wife Connie and daughter Larissa. When he's not busy working on the newspaper, he enjoys cigars/pipes, Martinis/Scotch, hunting and fishing.