The United States of America is the greatest bastion of freedom in the history of the world – and it is no accident. It was the explicit endeavor of the Constitution’s framers, as expressed in these words from the preface: “We the People of the United States, in Order to… secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.” Since the Constitution’s ratification, our nation has experienced an even greater expansion of this freedom through Emancipation, Universal Suffrage and the Civil Rights movement.
But the Constitution uses a different phrase to express the idea of freedom, namely, “the blessings of liberty.” “Blessings”denotes a gift from God of temporal or spiritual benefit, and “liberty” deriving from the Latin libertas expresses freedom from oppression. The resulting phrase communicates the same general concept conveyed in the word “freedom,” but functionally serves to give it a solemnity cast in the majesty of law, whereas the Teutonic derivative “freedom” could just as easily connote the right to assemble peaceably, as to unleash heathen revelry. Sadly, the latter appears more in line with freedom’s bent over the past few decades – a tendency which has tragically checked its wholesome expansion in the post-Civil Rights era.
For years, we have watched constitutional freedoms expressed in a wide variety of unhealthy ways – perhaps most egregiously to denigrate the very nation protecting them. In 1989, the Supreme Court ruled in Texas v. Johnson that burning the American flag was a form of free speech. As grotesque and obscene a display as that is, I must concur. Unfortunately, an even darker corner has been turned in probing freedom’s perverse, unconstitutional outer-limits – such as the “freedom” to force others to respect indecency, the shutdown of commerce by radical leftists, and the arbitrary silencing of Conservative voices.
Humanity has never stayed a moderate course for long; history is littered with examples. Forces aggregate to one side of a controversy or another, and the prevailing opinion lunges forward with such velocity in opposition as to threaten to drive the train of government clean off its tracks and over the cliff of anarchy. In this full-on drive to stretch freedoms beyond their constitutionally intended limits, something fundamental is being ignored – the human institution that protects this framework we all live under – the living mast of the ship of state which faces the waves of opposition from without and within – the hero honored in the poem by Charles M. Province, U.S. Army – “It Is the Soldier”
It is the Soldier, not the minister
Who has given us freedom of religion.
It is the Soldier, not the reporter
Who has given us freedom of the press.
It is the Soldier, not the poet
Who has given us freedom of speech.
It is the Soldier, not the campus organizer
Who has given us freedom to protest.
It is the Soldier, not the lawyer
Who has given us the right to a fair trial.
It is the Soldier, not the politician
Who has given us the right to vote.
It is the Soldier who salutes the flag,
Who serves beneath the flag,
And whose coffin is draped by the flag,
Who allows the protester to burn the flag.
This Independence Day, remember that it is our obligation to appreciate, encourage and support those who offer up their lives to protect the blessings of liberty our nation has enjoyed for over 240 years, and to reign in the base drives in our culture threatening to extinguish those liberties through unmitigated license. That is freedom’s obligation.