Opinion: Freedom requires ongoing attention

July 4, 2013


“Posterity! You will never know how much it cost the present generation to preserve your freedom. I hope you will make good use of it.” — John Quincy Adams

Freedom is not the default position of humankind; otherwise more would be free. In much of the world, dictatorship, religious persecution and the suppression of women are the norm.

Freedom has a price. Its currency is the blood of those who paid the bill. They can be found at Arlington, Normandy and scores of other places of rest where Americans died so that others might live in freedom.

If a nation is unwilling to pay the price for freedom, freedom dies. As Ronald Reagan observed, “Freedom is never more than one generation away from extinction. We didn’t pass it to our children in the bloodstream. It must be fought for, protected and handed on for them to do the same, or one day we will spend our sunset years telling our children and our children’s children what it was once like in the United States where men were free.”

Threats to freedom come not just from foreign powers or domestic terrorists. Subtler enemies can enslave us. These come from a focus on self: my rights, my pleasures, my money, to the exclusion of what benefits the whole, or as the Founders put it, “promotes the general welfare.”

Who in our increasingly fractured country speaks of the general welfare? We are now mostly subsumed into groups. Identity politics is replacing our national identity. We are hyphenated Americans, divided by language, gender, race, class and orientation. Few are willing to stand up and point the way to what should unify us by embracing what is objectively right and good. Any political leader who attempts to define right and good can be subjected to an attack ad and stereotyping.

We are hastily exchanging real freedom for license, which is unfettered morality and as dangerous as setting sail without a rudder.

At best, freedom ought to be about doing good for one’s self, and especially for others. Sacrifice does not always require one to give up something. It can also lead to an investment in the life of another person, which collectively contributes to the health of the nation. It goes beyond paying taxes. It is, as John F. Kennedy noted, asking what you can do for your country.

What does that mean? At the least it should reflect the words from one of our great patriotic hymns: “Who more than self their country loved.”

Find one poor person who wants help and liberate them from poverty. If you are pro-life, volunteer at a women’s pregnancy help center to save babies and help women, freeing them from the difficult circumstances that cause many to seek an abortion. If you think government is too big, become more responsible for yourself and rely less on Washington. This means living within your means and investing wisely. It’s called self-reliance, which is one’s own declaration of independence.

That which constrains us from being seduced by our lower nature is what guarantees our freedom. For some it is Scripture. For all Americans it should be the Constitution. In 1878, British statesman William Gladstone called the U.S. Constitution, “the most wonderful work ever struck off at a given time by the brain and purpose of man.”

That document flowed from the Declaration of Independence, which presumed the existence of “our Creator,” the ultimate source of freedom and our rights. Abandoning these threatens freedom.

On this, the 237th birthday of America, we would do well to remember the meaning of freedom and why it must be renewed by every generation if it is to endure.

— Cal Thomas is a columnist for Tribune Media Services.


jafs 4 years, 9 months ago

Wow - tortured even for Cal.

At first he seems to be on to something, when talking of freedom. But, then rapidly twists and turns into ideas that limit freedom, and compel people to act as he thinks they should act, which is the opposite of freedom.

If you really believe in freedom, then you don't try to compel them to act as you would like them to act.

And he likes to slip in comments like "what is objectively right and good" which are very suspect, and generally for him a sort of veiled reference to the Bible.

No thanks, I prefer to believe in actual freedom - that means as long as people aren't harming others, it's not my business to interfere.

bearded_gnome 4 years, 9 months ago

well written Cal and most timely as the federal government has gotten far too large and intrusive.

coherant to the end this piece given that many of our founders found inspiration and solace in the Bible.

bearded_gnome 4 years, 9 months ago

Jafs wrote: No thanks, I prefer to believe in actual freedom - that means as long as people aren't harming others, it's not my business to interfere.

---killing a baby in the womb is the ultimate in harmng another, and impinging on his or her rights. intrusive government harms everyone's rights.

jafs 4 years, 9 months ago

That would be a "fetus" in the womb.

And, I think that abortion is a complex and difficult issue, and neither side's rhetoric is sufficient.

And, we have laws about abortion based on the fact that a fetus which is viable outside the womb is more like a separate life.

Do you have any comments on the main substance of my post?

Trumbull 4 years, 9 months ago

Bearded_Groan, I rarely or never comment on abortion. I do not have a qualified opinion either way. But you make it sound as if this issue is all because of and/or about the government's role. There is much more to it than that.

Trumbull 4 years, 9 months ago

The biggest threat to our freedom is and always has been large corporate and industrial complexes. Since 1776 Government has done a good job of breaking trusts and limiting monopolization of industries. Until recently, banks have gotten too big too fail. I am not sure how much say our weapons mfgs have in our recent wars starting with Vietnam.

Just think how much Microsoft and Facebook and Twitter and cellular phones have changed us (for the better or worse). Proof that the threat may not always come from Government as we historically have thought.

Another threat to our freedom is an inactive congress. We have some in congress who willfully want to see this country fail...if it will make there chances better for the next election. Who want to see our treasury fail and not make good on our debt. That debt ceiling crisis at-least separated the traitors out (basically all Republicans). I used to like Republicans until the debt ceiling crisis. That changed things for me.

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