Straying from my comfort zone here to comment on a subject so sensitive, yet so taken for granted that today it seems to be slipping from our grasp. Watching a clip on TV this morning about the Statue of Liberty I was struck by the commentator, “Lady Liberty is the very essence of the democracy that cloaks our nation. A gift from France she stands in the harbor greeting all who come seeking liberty, a guarantee here.” The commentator went on to say things like, she embodies our nation’s spirit of liberty and free speech.
However we are not a democracy, our founding fathers knew better than to create a new nation governed by mob rule. We are, or were, a “representative democracy.” That is to say representatives would be elected by the people to “represent” them in government. As opposed to the population at large voting and enacting laws, ideas, and strategies. The founding fathers knew from history true democracy leads to anarchy.
But what about our unique rights of liberty, so compelling that people from all over the world go to extraordinary lengths to become Americans? To join us in the right to, “Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness.” Notice not, “happiness” but the, “pursuit of.” Again the founding fathers understood no nation could ever guarantee happiness, that is up to the individual to achieve, realize and create. But what a nation could guarantee was the right to pursue it, hence the liberty. As the old cowboy saying goes, “God put enough firewood in the woods for everyone, it’s up to the individual to gather it and build their own campfire.”
We live in the first nation in all the annals of time created to guarantee the rights of the individual, not the government. But with the “liberty” to be who we want to be, and “pursue our happiness” comes a bit of responsibility. Responsibility to gather our firewood, to strive to better ourselves, and to defend our right to do so.
Liberty is not a guarantee of itself. Words in a document fade if the spirit, the essence of liberty is not practiced, nourished. It cannot survive on its own. It needs exercise, stimulation and recognition. Each time we ignore our right to liberty, and obligation, a bit more slips away. Has enough now slipped away that we can no longer tip our hats to the grand lady in the harbor?
Much of our self imposed governance today is practiced by what is all too commonly called, “political correctness.” I believe it was Stalin who first coined that phrase, as dissenters were herded up and sent to camps to be trained to be, “politically correct.” But wherever the term, idea and restriction originated, it has become a cancer on our liberty. That is not to say folks should be free to say and practice unlawful, damaging or cruel things. It is however to say that every idea, argument and strategy as at least two sides, and liberty allows for both to be explored.
If an individual has a “right” to say for instance, “he believes we are killing the planet.” Does not another individual have the right to say he believes we are not?
How about the massively hot and infuriating debates, about same gender marriage, abortion, or owning guns? Those who support the ideas have every right, and duty to express their liberty and act accordingly, with respect. As do those who have convictions against them. Neither should be silenced, chastised or harmed for their desire to pursue happiness, in the name of liberty. But have you noticed lately that some are? And with more aggression, vengeance and hatred then should be normal in a free society. What about the liberty of the opposing view holders? Is it to be not allowed, respected? Must their religions, business and lifestyles be forced into compliance for fear of harm? Have we let so much liberty slip away we now have tyranny of political correctness? It seems that indeed we may have.
Nor can liberty long survive if the people promised it seek more and more help, rules and mandates from government. Each and every time the government offers help, solutions or structure government charges a fee that today too few notice. That fee is another loss of a bit liberty. A price it seems too many are willing to pay.
Have we moved so far from the idea of liberty that it is now no longer worth the bother?
When once we were a nation, a people, who fought and died for the right to live our lives honorably and with respect to ideals, justice and freedom, a melting pot—have we transformed into a nation of splinter groups each pitted against each other, and the loudest, toughest voice and power rules. Can that be liberty for all?
Are able today to look at the lady standing tall in the harbor and tell her we still hold that liberty?
Gitty Up, Dutch Henry