Posts Tagged ‘4th of July’

Freedom: Will We Keep It?

Thursday, July 4th, 2013

Which freedom?

As I logged out of a remote session between my home and my office this morning, having initiated some much-needed maintenance on some critical equipment, I pondered the meaning of the holiday most will be enjoying today.  As I take a short break before heading into work to complete the maintenance on-site, it strikes me as tragic that we could let such a wonderful country slip from our grasp.  Two-hundred-thirty-seven years ago, our founders endeavored to create something that had never been: An independent nation of independent people, each free to pursue their own ends in responsible respect for the rights of every other.  The most pressing task of their day was not really in fighting the British, but in convincing their fellow colonials to join them in the fight.  As we look forward to a country rapidly crumbling under a weight of government our founders could not have imagined, we must again make the case to our countrymen that freedom is worth the fight.

In the sixties, it became fashionable in some circles to claim as a popular song of the time that “freedom is just another word for nothing left to lose.”  That sentiment has become the undercurrent and the back-drop for a cultural decline that now pervades our national spirit, as the concept was injected into the realm of the politics.  Too frequently, men and women born to freedom surrender some facet of that liberty in the name of Janis Joplin’s lament, the implication being that freedom is merely the result of having nothing.  The pragmatist’s sing-song, claiming that freedom is a pointless exercise without material or spiritual values is a detestable lie that has gained something akin to a majority’s acceptance in modern America.  True freedom, they would claim, is the state of having nothing, or of being nothing, such that to have anything, one must yield one’s liberty, or that to be truly free, one must surrender life itself.  As Ayn Rand observed, the collectivists extol the virtues of freedom – but only as obtained in one’s grave.  As our founders had done, I stand opposed to their anthem, and its corrupt concept of freedom.

Freedom is not the absence of material or spiritual values.  Indeed, real freedom is possessed of the ability to obtain material and spiritual values without interference from others, the capacity to establish one’s own course without infringements, and the presumption of sovereignty over one’s life and property.  By setting values against freedom, the statists’ lament is intended to trick you into surrendering both.  Neither do you wish for the “full freedom” of the grave, wherein lies its ultimate expression by their estimates, nor do you wish to be in perpetual servitude as a kept being, left on a causeless, pointless system of life-support in exchange for your lack of self-direction.  Instead, they preach, you should seek to achieve a “balance” between the perfect  freedom of the grave and the tyranny of perfect servitude.  This false dichotomy is the first argument they must convince you to accept, and it was the false thesis our founders were compelled to destroy.

As most of my readers know too well, freedom is not the human escape from life, as statists would contend, but the extension and enhancement of life by the ability to self-govern.  Whether on a national scale, or on an individual basis, self-determination is the real object of the statists’ attack.  You must suborn your wishes to those of your community, that must in turn submit to the will of the state, that must finally concede any nationalistic impulse in the interests of all humanity, according to their prescriptions.  Their ugly secret lies in the fact that all along the way, they have rigged what will come to be considered the interests of the community, the country, and the entire planet.  In short, their interests are simultaneously pro-humanity and anti-human, which means a generally benevolent sentiment toward the whole of humankind through a focused malevolence of policies against all individuals.

The simple truth is that they offer the classic carrot and stick.  On the one hand, the easy enticements of the welfare state and managed compliance, but in the other, the brandished club of the mindless collective.  To accept the former, it is true that one must yield one’s ability to choose one’s course, but the latter requires no acceptance, usually delivering or threatening some form of their view of “perfect freedom.”   In stark contrast, what the founders offered a people was the ability to set one’s own course; to live or die by one’s efforts or their lack; to succeed or fail at one’s own expense; to thrive or languish according to one’s ambitions.  In short, there would be no guarantees, neither of comfort nor of poverty, but merely the freedom to act and choose to pursue one’s own ends without interference.  By the standards of Joplin’s lament, this is not so enticing a choice for those who have grown accustomed to a standard of living they no longer have the willingness to earn.

In this sense, the founders of the United States of America may have had an easier task.  Looking at the sprawling wilderness before them, colonial Americans could envision unparalleled opportunity, whereas in our time, opportunity has been suppressed by governmental decree while the ability to perceive opportunities has been blindfolded in favor of the known, and the reliable.  The children of this age know a world of material plenty, but they have not been taught how it was obtained, and most have not even the knowledge or the desire to maintain it.  Ambition has been replaced by a hopeless wishing, by which too many of our youth spend their time daydreaming of the perfectly unobtainable while bypassing the opportunity to plan for and work toward the imperfectly approachable. Risk-taking was key to the building of America, and to the freedom it has enjoyed, but now we are dominated by a culture of risk-averse automatons who stare with jovial indifference at flashing pixels that describe their foremost entertainment. It’s all fiction.

If we are to succeed as a country, we must first succeed as individuals, but to do that will require stepping away from the left’s adaptation of Joplin’s view of freedom.  What a few more Americans have been realizing lately, as we careen toward implementation of Obama-care and the institution of a National Security State is that there is more than “nothing left to lose” contained in freedom.   Our founders understood this, evidenced by the fact that they were willing to risk their lives and their sacred honor, and all their worldly possessions, in the name of self-determination for a people and for individual persons.  What have we been willing to risk?  Public denunciations?  Scorn and ridicule?  Political engagement?  A few dollars to a favored cause, in the hope that some other might act in our stead?

Even given this, I still have some reason to hope, for while fleeting, a text came in that made my day.  A friend attending a 4th of July parade in a nearby town with his family saw fit to share with me something that had just happened.  In that town, a group of Texans favoring Open-Carry legislation assembled at a location along the parade’s course, and upon seeing his daughter looking across the street at them, he asked her if all of the guns she could see caused her concerns.  She replied simply to her father, and he reported to me her epic response:

“No, people scare me – guns don’t.”

In that sentence lies a naked but essential truth about freedom that our founders had understood too well, so that if it is alive in a teen-aged girl on a blistering sunny day in central Texas, there may yet be some hope for us all.  There is much more to freedom than “nothing left to lose,” and it’s time we begin to make that case again.  “Freedom” conceptually implies a “for whom” and a “from whom,”  because freedom is neither exercised by inanimate objects nor is it stripped from us by amoral conditions of nature.  There is always a “who.”  It has been the tireless trick of collectivists to substitute a laundry list of “what” for the “who.”  Just as the leftists have conveniently forgotten that Bobby McGee had been the real object of Joplin’s lament, they always manage to forget the “who” in their discussions of freedom.  Their litany includes “freedom from poverty,” “freedom from want,” “freedom from unemployment,” and “freedom from oppression” as if those conditions could arise without a “who” on either end.

As most Americans continue to clamor for more goodies from the hands of their would-be masters, it is important to remember what independence means, because a nation of dependents will not maintain it on a national scale, having surrendered it as individuals.  Freedom from the conditions of life are not liberty at all, but instead a form of bondage to whomever is maintaining that illusory and undeserved condition.  Franklin’s warning rings in my ears, because while the founders fought for freedom, and the framers of our constitution had indeed given us a form of government amenable to a great liberty, it is we who will decide if we shall keep it, or trade it in on a vision of freedom popularized by a drug-addicted woman who finally obtained her freedom in precisely the form she had described it.  Of all the concepts we might address, I believe Franklin’s conditional declaration must remain the most pressing question of our time.

Asked by a lady what form of government the constitutional convention had conceived, Benjamin Franklin purportedly responded:

 

“A Republic, Madam, if you can keep it.”

Will we?  As we celebrate our national independence, we ought to consider individual liberty’s uncertain future, and which  concept of freedom we will adopt as our own.  Our founders knew that the most pressing purpose of their declaration was not to inform the British or the whole world of their treasonous intent, but to lay down an unimpeachable argument for independence among their own.  What will we risk for our vision of freedom?  We must be willing at least to make an argument on its behalf, or surrender to the alternative view of freedom as the exclusive province of death.

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Searching For America

Wednesday, July 4th, 2012

...If You Can Find Her

On this Fourth day of July, the nation marks its Independence Day, but I fear that for all the remembrances of glory now passed out of mind by most Americans, and for all the lovely, somber assemblies that will today gather in order to consider the truly beautiful words of the brilliant minds who once established this country, who risked literally all in order to put aside a tyrant, there are pitifully few among us who have the courage to repeat their bold actions, or even realize the true marvel that had been the American founding.  I have always believed that America was more than a place defined by some lines drawn on a map, and its meaning was more than even the stunning assembly of the stars and stripes of Old Glory could represent.  No, America had been synonymous with “Liberty,” and “Freedom,” and other rare concepts of human refinement that have not been duplicated anywhere.  To all of my patriotic friends, who look glumly about at the depressing caricature we’ve been watching our nation become, I urge you to take heart:  America lives!

It is true that the statists have developed and implemented a plan for our national diminution.  It is true even that some among our number seem to happily go along with the slide.  The worst of it for many will have been how the July 4th observances this year will seem more like a eulogy than a celebration.  We now give our beloved America the big send-off, with fireworks to punctuate the wake.  A funeral need not be a glum affair, and with all the flag-waving set to commence, it seems appropriate that rather than play an encore of Stars and Stripes Forever, we instead yield the music of the day to a funeral march.  Yet this is only appropriate if we view America as nothing more than a political partition.  True, it is clear that the Republic lies at Death’s door, but the idea that stands behind the Republic remains alive in each of us who will merely bear its memory forth.

The gun-grabbers will attempt to take our rights to keep and bear, but still we must resist them, whatever the laws they may make.  That’s what an American would do.  The taxers and dispensers-of-penalties (just in case Mitt Romney still doesn’t know which he had been as Governor of that once-free commonwealth) can work their worst, but at the end of the day, if you are willing to live without comforts, you can resist this too.  This I am certain, every real American would do.  Were I closer to New York, for example, I would be inclined to raid a grocery warehouse, buying up all the little Morton’s salt shakers, and dispense one on every table in every restaurant in sight, and a pox on Michael Bloomberg for his wretched regulating, and I would probably start in any cafeteria owned by the city.  This is what the bold, but not the timid, would do.  Americans think to do such things.  Docile slaves never do.

I’d give a cop a hug, since they don’t pass the laws, and there may come a day when I’d like very much for them to ignore some mindless rule that I had decided I would no longer observe.  Americans, the real ones, know that laws are only as powerful as they permit them to be.  Americans aren’t frightened about the possibility of another Obama term, because even he is only so powerful as we decide he should be.  You might offer me one-thousand scenarios in which he might seize more power, but I insist that it’s still only as good as the will of the people he appoints to carry it out, in the face of all of those who dare to say “no.”

America isn’t defined by Washington DC.  It is only the United States of America that is shaped and molded there.  One-million Obamas with one-billion executive orders backed-up by nine-thousand robe-clad morons cannot make a nation of three hundred million people do anything, not even a fraction of them, if they choose not to do it.  In America, the people know this, and while they may lament the existence of such brigands in public office, they likewise remember that the founders of America had declared that a government exists at the pleasure of all its people.  Does a government headed by Barack Obama exist at your pleasure?  Do you think only Mitt Romney can save us, or do you understand that in America, the least among us is still completely capable of saying “no,” and meaning it?

People have asked me in times passed how such an America could function, and I tell you that there are more ways than one to eat that dog.  Let your own conscience be your guide, but I have resolved that I will become an avid practitioner of “Not Guilty,” when the only victim alleged is some public policy.  “John Q Public stands charged with failing to pay his Obama-care mandate noncompliance penalty/tax. What say you, the jury?”

“Not guilty.”

Jury nullification is not a new idea, but most of the time, we get tricked into a.)admitting that’s what we’re doing, thus putting ourselves in legal jeopardy, or b.)fooled into believing it’s not permissible, somehow dishonest, or lawless.  Ladies and gentlemen, we live in a country where Supreme Court Chief justices are lawless as a matter of the routine.  In America, we know that law has only the force we give it, and if the law is wrong, it mustn’t be enforced.  Let us not give such laws any force, any longer. Am I calling you to anarchy? Never. I am asking you to consider correcting an anarchy already in progress, wherein the law is no restraint upon an aggressive government, irrespective of the party in power.

I vote “no” on every bond issue, every tax, and any expansion of government power, no matter how trivial it may seem at the time, because experience has taught me that it will not remain that way.  Only in America do citizens routinely tell public officials to kiss off.  We should all do so more frequently when justified, and these days, it’s justified plenty.    In America, the people know that government isn’t their boss, but that the master-servant relationship puts the people a the top, and the people there have no compunction whatever about reminding the public servants of just exactly who is whom on that particular totem pole.

We can look for America in all sorts of places.  The first place I always think to look for it is in the minds, the words, and particularly, in the deeds of the people around me.  I know how to spot America every time.  If you’re the sort of person inclined to read this blog, chances are, so do you, but the first place each should seek it is right there, inside you.  I know it’s in there.  You might keep it hidden in an office or a school full of leftists.  It’s yearning to get out, you know.  I realize that the polite society of Republican politics urges you to suppress it, and keep it hidden at all times, and that among Democrats, it’s tucked firmly away lest it escape embarrassingly from the closet. I’ve heard that in Congress, they do their best to isolate it like a leper colony.

America is not a Utopia, and does not seek that status, since in America, they yield to the natural fact that there can be no perfection among men.  America’s constitution was established to create a “more perfect union,” but it did not promise Heaven on Earth, the authors having known such was impossible.  Those men did not say they were seeking a “more perfect lifestyle,” a “more perfect country,” a “less costly health-care system,” or a “more perfect distribution of wealth,”  but instead a “more perfect union” not among individual men, but among the several states.  In short, they knew they could not make more perfect all the affairs of men, but only that among the institutions of man, they could improve the function, and for a time, they succeeded until some forgot what it was all intended to do.

I seek America because I know it’s “out there,” but it’s “in here,” too. I know there are others seeking her too, and I believe I’ve met some decent number of them through this blog.  I would urge my friends to spend the Fourth of July seeking America wherever they can find it, but not to waste an inordinate amount of time looking for it in a country called the United States.  America has to sneak in an out of there for visits these days, and there’s no sense looking for something where it plainly is not. My friends, I wish you all a happy Independence Day in search of it, and may you find it quickly.  I hear she’s worth the trouble.