EDITOR'S NOTE: Robin Smith is a weekly columnist for the Free Press editorial page. Her column will appear each Monday.
Oil and water. Darkness and light. Evil and good. Hot and cold. Life and death.
These are just a few examples of opposites that are unable to co-exist. One displaces or overtakes the other. Even when oil and water are mixed, the two soon separate into very distinct liquids due to their natural composition.
The natural repellent characteristic of oil and water is just one example of a fact: In nature, there are certain characteristics that prevent the co-existence of elements, substances, organisms and beliefs that are diametrically opposed.
In witnessing the attacks on U.S. embassies and consulates on Sept. 11 and days following by extremists of the Islamic faith, a question occurred to me. Are the liberty and freedom experienced by many on this globe able to co-exist in such a radical environment?
In the United States, a true casserole of religions, philosophies, political differences and ideologies co-exist. Throughout American culture, these differences — even opposites — co-exist.
So, what's in America that's missing in eye of the radical storm seen in the Middle East and Northern Africa?
In America, we have the right to free speech and to peaceably assemble. These two pillars of liberty are found in our political freedoms.
According to the "2011 Democracy Index" published annually by The Economist, of the 167 countries measured, those with the highest scores fall within North America, followed by Western Europe. The region of sub-Saharan Africa is only surpassed in its oppression by the regions of the Middle East and North Africa. The scoring is based upon a weighted survey to assess if elections are "free and fair" and the "security of voters" to determine if a "full" democracy exists in contrast to an "authoritarian regime."
In America, we have the right to work to earn a living and pursue a chosen vocation or profession with the right to own private property. These pillars support the economic freedoms of America's signature of equal opportunity.
The Wall Street Journal pairs with the Heritage Foundation to issue "The Index of Economic Freedom" each year. The countries noted to be in the top metric of measurement are typically those nations that honor private property rights, a limited government regarding the observance of the Rule of Law and restraint on regulation and those whose citizens participate in open markets, free to invest, purchase and trade.
The authors of the chapter "Defining Economic Freedom" distill this broad notion down to simple form: "These three fundamental principles of economic freedom -- empowerment of the individual, non-discrimination and open competition -- underpin every measurement and policy idea. ..."
In America, we have the right to worship freely or to abstain from worship -- the freedom of religion. Personal beliefs that stir the gifts of charity and compassion, fuel social order and refrain from violent extremes are characteristic of America.
The Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life December 2009 analysis, "Global Restrictions on Religion," noted: "Among all regions, the Middle East-North Africa has the highest government and social restrictions on religion, while the Americas are the least restrictive on both measures."
Based on this multifaceted, brief review, extremist, violent cultures faced with dismal economic options, rigid theocratic governments and few individual rights of property ownership and opportunity seem doomed to be incompatible with liberty as loved, embraced and enjoyed as a legacy in America.
Kind of makes you appreciate the role of our founding documents — the Declaration of Independence, the U.S. Constitution and the Bill of Rights — doesn't it? Our commitment as "Americans first" should be to guard these unalienable rights against forces determined to redefine and "transform" our nation.
Robin Smith, a consultant at Rivers Edge Alliance, is a wife and mother living in Hixson. She served as the Tennessee Republican Party chairman from 2007-2009.