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Be a Democrat. Be Green. Be Republican. Heck, be Libertarian.

Whatever political party you belong to, whatever you think is right and wrong with this country, there are some very basic things that you can do to, some basic principles that you can follow, to keep America free.

Singing God Bless America won't do it. Waving the flag won't do it. Reciting the Pledge of Allegiance won't do it. Shooting off fireworks on the 4th of July won't keep America free, either, but it will make your neighbors mad for sure.

The following are 25 simple, but not always easy, thoughts and deeds that will keep America free if Americans choose to pursue them. Sure, it's a lot harder to consider this list than to wear a red, white and blue baseball cap, but then, the most important freedoms are the most difficult to maintain.

1. Read the Constitution

2. Pursue as much education as you can afford, and maybe a little more

3. Get your news from at least 5 different sources

4. Turn off your TV. Read.

5. Talk about politics and religion at the dinner table

6. Join the ACLU

7. Learn to distinguish between symbols of freedom and freedom itself, and keep hold of the real thing

8. Reject all plans for security that require the sacrifice of freedom

9. Write, phone, fax, email and visit your representatives

10. Speak your mind, no matter how unpopular its thoughts

11. Listen when others speak their minds

12. Speak up for others whose freedoms are in jeopardy

13. Forgive the flaws of politicians, but measure their promises upon past performance

14. Presume innocence and entertain reasonable doubts

15. Beware leaders who say that you have evil enemies

16. Ask questions of authority

17. Protest and disobey unjust laws

18. Find and organize with people of like minds

19. Learn about all the candidates for elected office - even the local ones

20. Donate to your favorite candidates - don't let big business get all the influence

21. Find out which businesses donate to which kinds of candidates, and shop accordingly

22. Volunteer on your candidates' campaigns

23. Register to vote

24. Vote in every election - even the odd years

25. If you don't approve of the political parties, gather a large group of eligible friends, attend a local party meeting, and ask to be heard. If your concerns are not heeded, form a caucus, find out what the rules are and take over the local party aparatus! It's yours, if you want it.

A final note: You'll notice that waging war is not a part of that list. Self-identified patriots are always keen to lecture the rest of us that our freedoms were hard-won and defended by soldiers' bloodshed in wartime. Upon any consideration, that claim resembles like nothing so much as a wagonload of bullshit.

War does not create freedom, and it cannot defend freedom. War wins pieces of land and defends pieces of property. War kills freedom in the most powerful way possible: by killing the people who would live in freedom and forcing their surviving compatriots to do what they would not do if they were not under the gun of a foreign military.

Freedom is hard won and defended by courageous politicians, and the citizens who support them. Freedom is endangered by war. It is preserved through wise and just peace.

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