Rob Douglas: Not as free, but still brave |

Rob Douglas: Not as free, but still brave

This Independence Day, Americans are feeling less free than they have in years. Meanwhile, here in the Yampa Valley, we have a shining example of why the United States is still the home of the brave.

This week, Gallup released results from a question they've asked Americans for the last seven years: "In this country, are you satisfied or dissatisfied with your freedom to choose what you do with your life?"

Here's what Gallup learned.

"Fewer Americans are satisfied with the freedom to choose what they do with their lives compared with seven years ago — dropping 12 percentage points from 91 percent in 2006 to 79 percent in 2013. In that same period, the percentage of Americans dissatisfied with the freedom to choose what they do with their lives more than doubled, from 9 percent to 21 percent."

Additionally, Gallup found that the U.S. is falling behind other countries when it comes to the perception of freedom.

"Gallup asks people in more than 120 countries each year whether they are satisfied or dissatisfied with the freedom to choose what they do with their lives. In 2006, the U.S. ranked among the highest in the world for people reporting satisfaction with their level of freedom. After seven years and a 12-point decline, the U.S. no longer makes the top quartile worldwide.

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"Of the countries where Gallup asked residents about satisfaction with their freedom in 2006 and 2013 (108 in total), only 10 countries had declines as large or larger than the decrease seen in the U.S."

The U.S. has fallen to 36th on the list of countries polled. For comparison, the top 10 countries in descending order are: New Zealand, Australia, Cambodia, Sweden, United Arab Emirates, Austria, Netherlands, Uzbekistan, Canada and Iceland.

After explaining why Americans' declining perception of freedom must be about more than the still troubled economy, Gallup advances another possible explanation: government corruption.

"Gallup asks an additional question worldwide about whether people believe corruption is widespread throughout their government. This item is related to perceptions of freedom at the national level.

"Among Americans, perceptions of widespread corruption in their government have been generally increasing over the past seven years."

In 2006, 59 percent of U.S. residents answered "yes" when asked, "Is corruption widespread throughout the government in this country, or not?" By 2013, 79 percent answered in the affirmative, leading Gallup to note:

"Perceived widespread corruption in the U.S. government could be on the rise for several reasons, including the significant media attention on issues such as the IRS targeting of conservative groups and the National Security Agency leaks. Americans not only feel that the U.S. government is performing poorly, as demonstrated by record-low congressional approval ratings, but they also report that the U.S. government itself is one of the biggest problems facing the country today."

In another poll, Gallup determined, "At this point, Americans place much greater faith in the military and the police than in any of the three branches of government."

That brings us to a shining example of bravery here in the valley — Maddie Ruppel.

As the Steamboat Today reported this week, Steamboat Springs High School graduate Maddie Ruppel entered the United States Military Academy at West Point on Wednesday as a cadet. Once Ruppel successfully completes four years of rigorous academic, military and physical training, she will be commissioned as a second lieutenant in the United States Army and will serve at least five years on active duty.

While Routt County is home to many talented young Americans who are preparing to be leaders in their chosen professions, Ruppel is truly exceptional. After all, in addition to West Point, she was accepted at two other military academies — a tremendous accomplishment. Combine Ruppel's proven determination and intelligence with the courage it takes to serve in the military, and you have the makings of a brave young woman with the potential to be a leader of her generation.

With the world as dangerous as it has ever been, this Fourth of July, let's give thanks for young Americans, like Ruppel, who willingly choose to serve in the armed forces and protect the freedom that is the birthright of our nation.

Godspeed, Maddie.

To reach Rob Douglas, email or follow him on Twitter @RobDouglas3

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