For the week of January 6, 1999   thru January 12, 1999  

What we have

Think politicians are despicable? Distrust the media? Join the club. So does China.

Just six months after President Clinton visited and praised the new openness, the Chinese government reverted to its old ways.

In December, courts sent six dissidents to jail or labor camps for trying to establish China’s first opposition party.

Then the country’s highest court warned that publishers would get stiff jail terms if they "threatened state security." One day later, an official newspaper announced that 16 people had been jailed in the past year for publishing illegal political tracts.

It’s fashionable in the U.S. to demean politicians as self-serving power-hungry people who want only to take and spend Americans’ hard-earned money—on all the wrong things.

It’s fashionable to complain about news media. Journalists are regularly criticized for "liberal bias," inaccuracy and use of anonymous sources.

Even so, politicians are free to please voters, not just party bosses. Journalists are free to speak and write the truth as best they can, without fear of imprisonment.

Citizens are free to think, to speak and to vote as they please. Americans cannot be jailed or killed for not toeing a party line.

These are simple concepts. Yet, after more than 200 years, it’s easy to take freedom for granted. It’s hard to imagine that others live their entire lives oppressed by a system controlled by a favored few. It’s hard to believe that in a Chinese system, thinking like an American would be a ticket to a labor camp.

As we begin a new year of carping and complaining about the ills of America, we should take a good look at what we have.


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