Yoani Sanchez, the 37-year-old Cuban dissident, arrived in America this past week on the last leg of her 80-day world tour. She came with a message that is honest, bold and, in an old world sense, very American.
She is here telling us how she would like Cuba to be, but in the process, reminds us of how we used to be — and how we used to sound when we fought for freedom as passionately as we now fight for our remote controls.
Sanchez is a rock star as political dissidents go. She has a worldwide following, due in large part to her ability to leverage the Internet in order to get her message out. She has 460,000 Twitter followers and her blog —available in 17 languages— gets more than 14 million hits a month.
If that’s not impressive enough, consider that her blog is blocked in Cuba, that she has to contend with government minders and censors, and that the only way she can circumvent these obstacles is by emailing her blog posts to friends outside of Cuba who then publish them on her site for her.
One day, Sanchez decided to tell the truth about life inside Cuba. And since then, her words have encouraged people worldwide to think about their own freedom, or lack thereof. She’s received countless international honors, medals and is listed on too many “most influential” lists to detail here. While the fame and notoriety may inoculate her from the Cuban government taking severe action against her, one gets the sense fame and notoriety is not what drives her.
Cuba is her home, her homeland and the place she hopes to change from within. If she left Cuba and wrote her blog from Miami or New York, she would enjoy just a fraction of her following.
True defenders of liberty sacrifice themselves for the sake of freedom. They have throughout history, including our own. And Sanchez has undoubtedly made that sacrifice: she has reportedly been arrested, detained, beaten and harassed for speaking out against Cuba’s prohibitions on freedom of expression and freedom of the press.
She speaks of truths that insult and infuriate every statist, absolutist, oligarch and totalitarian—much as our own forefathers once did.
Through John Locke, Thomas Paine, James Madison and Thomas Jefferson we once came to revere the concept of our inalienable rights as Americans, derived not from the state, but from our own free will and from God. More than two centuries later, those rights have been slowly whittled down —eroded by politicians who mask their cruelty with “benevolent” laws that have only served to make us more dependent on government, less free and reliant upon ourselves and our communities.
This is the battle that Yoani Sanchez talks about in her own country when she spreads her message of freedom, and when she says that the rights of citizens are not gifts from the government but that they are instead inherent human rights.
Her words against her own oppressive government cannot help but remind us of our own history against tyranny. But should they not also remind us of our present condition?
At a time when government workers earn more than private citizens, when our tax money is collected and given to those who crony up to politicians, when defense spending is used to defend earnings, when governments mandate our choice of schools, healthcare, food and even drink size, isn’t it time for us to re-examine our own inalienable rights or lack there of?
This piece originally appeared on FoxNews.com