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Midsummer is a time when nations reflect on their liberty and the profound price paid for it.  In the United States, we celebrate the Fourth of July; in France La Fete Nationale on July 14th; to our north, Canada Day on July 1.  None of these commemorations, however, can be understood merely as national holidays or insular traditions, despite their roots in particular eras and events.  These holidays derive their meaning from their appeal to universal sentiments about human freedom and self-governance.  They also keep those sentiments alive in places where similar anniversaries cannot be observed.

Take the People’s Republic of China.  Scholars today debate just what kind of tyranny communist China represents.  It is something new in the world, a nation whose rulers have built a society equally congenial to rapid economic growth and the ruthless crushing of personal and political liberty.   It is a one-party state pursuing a one-child policy, with extraordinary wealth accumulating for some families while blood and squalor are the daily lot of others.  Summertime in China brings the anniversary of the student uprising at Tiananmen Square, but it remains a crime there to publicize the events of June 4, 1989, much less to renew the call for liberty made that day by thousands of student martyrs.

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