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Most Americans would agree that liberty and freedom are values fundamental to our nation, but, if questioned, do they really know the intent of their meanings, or have they changed through time? David Hackett in his book,Liberty and Freedom: A Visual History of America’s Founding Ideas, shows how liberty and freedom form an intertwined strand that runs through the core of American life. But like DNA, liberty and freedom have been transformed and recombined with every generation. Hence, the earliest colonies shared ideals of liberty and freedom may have evolved into different meanings today.
According to David Hackett, a historian at Brandeis University:
“Most Americans do not think of liberty and freedom as a set of texts, or a source of controversies or a sequence of controversies or a system of abstractions. They understand these ideas in another way, as inherited values that they have learned early in life and deeply believe.”
The words themselves have differing origins: the Latinate “liberty” implied separation and independence, while the root meaning of “freedom” speaks of attachment, such as the rights of belonging in a community of free people. In that the root meanings of freedom and liberty are not merely different, but instead are of two opposing concepts — separation vs. connection — it stands to reason that tension between the two values has been a source of conflict and creativity throughout American history.
In “Lincoln about freedom”, Lincoln, when speaking in Chicago in July of 1858, voiced how two different but incompatible ideas could be called “liberty”, further noting the second definition as tyrannical in nature. Lincoln viewed liberty as the cornerstone of the Republic as enshrined in the Declaration of Independence. To Lincoln, liberty, work and justice were closely connected concepts. Lincoln reflected that the world has never had a good definition of the word liberty. Lincoln believed that each individual is naturally entitled to do as he pleased with himself and the fruits of his labor, also realizing that others used liberty to mean for some men to do as they pleased with other men and the product of their labors.
Seventy eight years prior to Lincoln’s Chicago liberty remarks, on Christmas Day, 1780, Thomas Jefferson, author of the “Constitution,” proclaimed his “Empire of Liberty” concept, thus laying out the principle foundations of a very important concept of liberty.
Jefferson believed it was the United States of America’s responsibility to the world to promulgate freedom and liberty wherever possible. America’s example would assure all people everywhere that they have the ability and right to determine their own lives and commerce without being coerced by brutal despots.
Although Jefferson’s “Empire of Liberty” laid out a vision of an internationalist America as opposed to a provincial one, Jefferson did warn against America becoming involved in “entangling alliances”, an argument often invoked by American politicians when they oppose aiding those seeking to democratize their countries.
Present day obstacle to Liberty and Freedom
Liberty allows each of us to achieve what we might of our lives. As stated by Lord Action: “Liberty is not a means to a higher political end, it is itself the highest political end.” Matt Kibbe in his book, “Don’t Hurt People and Don’t Take Their Stuff,” takes a stand for individual liberty, laying out what we must do to preserve our freedom. In a nutshell, simple and straightforward, Kibbe describes liberty as: “Don’t hurt people, and don’t take their stuff.”
Continual decisions made in Washington, D.C. about what to do for us, to us, or even against us, are having an adverse impact on the lives of the American people, young and old. Gradually our freedoms are removed, one intrusive law after another, and always with the excuse it is for our own good. Men must be able to have the liberty to make their own choices, without a “nanny” government deciding what is best for everyone. We must wean those in society who have become entrapped in a “cradle to grave” dependence upon government. James Madison proclaimed, “There are more instances of the abridgment of the freedom of the people by gradual and silent encroachments of those in power than by violent and sudden usurpation.”
Young people can’t find jobs, millions of Americans are losing their health care plans; ones they were promised have not materialized. We are all being targeted, monitored, conscripted, induced, taxed, subsidized, regulated, and otherwise manipulated by someone else’s agenda, all based on someone else’s decisions made in some secret meeting or closed-door legislative deal.
Usurping of Constitution threatens Liberty and Freedom
Obama wasn’t bluffing when he smugly declared, “I’ve got a pen, and I’ve got a phone.” President Obama has already acted unilaterally on a wide range of issues, both domestic and foreign, with or without constitutional authority or congressional approval. It was never the intent that any president have the authority to ignore Congress or make and change laws through Executive Orders, and certainly not out of frustration due to an opponent’s refusal to roll over and approve his agenda.
Obama’s actions constitutes an alarming rise of one-man rule and the erosion of the once cherished concepts of liberty and freedom as envisioned by our Founding Fathers. More than in prior times, Democrats are invariably placing their party’s interests above those of the nation and also above the law. Illinois Senator Dick Durbin noted that a year had passed since the Senate passed a sweeping immigration reform bill, and urged House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) to bring a similar bill to the floor of the House with the warning: “if he does not, the president will borrow the power that is needed to solve the problems of immigration.”
Senator Durbin seems to have forgotten it is the duty of the different branches of government to be independent in their judgments when they examine bills, so that each bill is thoroughly examined from different perspectives before being approved into law. Rushing through an important and controversial bill such as changing our immigration law invites problems. The Affordable Care Act, among other recent examples, provides the proof. Could many of the resulting problems we are experiencing today be the result of our elected officials not even reading the bills they sign, but instead “rubber stamping” them depending upon their political party leaders’ orders?
The present crisis of children from Central America crossing over our southern border, is an example of the President’s abuse of authority, with heartbreaking results. Congress refused to pass the DREAM Act, and rather than work with those who had different opinions, Obama side-stepped Congress and issued an executive order to implement important provisions of it. That sent a signal to Central American countries that children would be allowed sanctuary when they crossed over into America.
In a victory for religious freedom, the Supreme Court ruled on Monday, June 30, 5-4 in favor of Hobby Lobby Stores, Inc. and Conestoga Wood Specialties Corp. in the case Burwell v. Hobby Lobby (formerly named Sebelius v. Hobby Lobby). The case was the strongest legal challenge to Obamacare since 2012. However, before Conservatives become too excited, it must be noted the decision was a “one vote” victory demonstrating the strong division within the Supreme Court.
As education involves children and America’s future, under Common Core liberty has been scrubbed as a founding principle. How could this be when liberty has such a strong, historical significance for Americans. Liberty equates to personal freedom and the right of citizens to live their lives without the intrusion of tyrannical government.
Why the concern?
It is not surprising that according to a Gallup international poll released Tuesday, July 1, Americans have become significantly less satisfied with the freedom to choose what they want to do with their lives. This is a 12-point drop from 2006, which pushes the United States from among the highest in the world in terms of perceived freedom to 36th place.
What has caused this alarming change in our population? There are many causes to consider. The federal government has gradually taken power from the states, while giving more authority to the federal government and even the United Nations. We see the evidence of that in the changes United Nations Agenda 21 has brought to our states. Individual American freedoms are being forfeited based on a United Nations agenda.
The erosion of our freedoms has concerned citizens searching for ways to reverse that trend by examining the reasons for the changes. Some blame our elected officials, as many of them seem to lack the courage and convictions of our forefathers. Rather than make decisions they know are best for America, they choose to take the easy course and follow the crowd. They should consider this quote from John Quincy: “Always vote for principle, though you may vote alone, and you may cherish the sweetest reflection that your vote is never lost.” Others blame liberal professors dominating classrooms across American with their socialist/communists socialist/communist doctrine, infecting their students with anti-American rhetoric.
An interesting suggestion for the decrease in America’s love for freedom, comes from writer Kenneth Minogue, who in his book “The Servile Mind: How Democracy Erodes the Moral Life”, says that “traditional societies and totalitarian states in the twentieth century suggested that many people are, in most circumstances, happy to sink themselves in some collective enterprise that guides their lives and guarantees them security.” That is believable knowing that almost half of our nation now receives some type of government assistance. Having left a corrupted government, our forefathers fled to America in a quest and passion for freedom, the chance for every man to make his own way; to be a master of his own life. We must not let that spirit die.
Calling all patriots to make voices heard!
Independence Day is the perfect time to remind ourselves of the amazing history of our country, to consider the men and women who allowed America to prosper. Let us reflect upon the wise patriots who have dotted our history and changed our lives through their devotion to America. We would do well to heed their wisdom, because not all of the changes we have recently seen in America have been profitable. We may need to reflect upon our past for examples of courage and self-reliance. Our schools must promote the ideals of patriotism, and allow students to know and value our history. Our children should be proud of our nation, and that will happen as they review our history and recognize the gift they have been given; a gift that must be guarded for our future.
Dinesh D’Souza’s new film, “America,” released in theaters on July 2nd, has a real chance to help shape the future of our nation. It is a movie that all should be encouraged to see, young and old alike, to be reminded that America is the world’s brightest hope for the future. The film combats the destructive progressive ideology that seeks to undermine and abolish some of America’s founding ideas. Check out the trailer here for “America.”
Will this nation remain great? Can it even be saved. It is up to Americans who love their country to make their voices heard. This nation stands at a crossroads. Will liberty and freedom remain alive and be enjoyed by Americans now and in our future, or will we wander into the dangerous territory of a tyrannical government? Americans must be vigilant; seek, find, and vote for the candidates who best represent their ideals and those of our forefathers. Do not be fooled by rhetoric over actions or promises over facts. America’s future depends upon the actions of patriots, who are vigilant. Patriots can be found from sea to shining sea, and we suspect all who read and agree with the points in this article are a part of that prestigious group. Together, we can make a positive difference.
[Originally published at Illinois Review]