Why Liberty Matters or, the Pursuit of an Ideal is Better than the Pursuit of Nothing


DSC01965One of the more famous quotes from early in the American Revolution was Patrick Henry saying “Give me liberty or give me death!” The less quoted part of his conclusion in his speech, attempting to sway the Virginia house to commit to war against the Empire, was this:

Why stand we here idle? What is it that gentlemen wish? What would they have? Is life so dear, or peace so sweet, as to be purchased at the price of chains and slavery? Forbid it, Almighty God! I know not what course others may take; but as for me, give me liberty or give me death!

“Give me liberty or give me death” seemed to be the rallying cry for the Virginia militia and eventually Continental Regulars. They were willing to die before having their liberty officially taken away from them. For them, the pursuit of the ideal of liberty was so important that it was worth giving one’s life in that pursuit.

Of course, as is true of anything, in pursuing any ideal there are imperfections. The most glaring imperfections in the aftermath of the Revolutionary War was the prohibition of voting to women, slavery, and the eventual genocide of the Native American people. In pursuing an ideal, that ideal is not always acted out perfectly, but in pursuing the ideal the hope exists that we will move closer and closer to liberty. Our nation has never achieved its mantra of “Liberty and Justice for all,” but it has worked toward that direction. In many instances, that direction came with the threat of life. The slaves who did all they could to escape north before the Civil War, to risk their lives for liberty. The men – both black and white – who fought against slavery in the Civil War thought that liberty was more important than living. And after this all, our nation still inhibited the liberty of our black brothers and sisters by segregating them away from the rest of the population, but even in this there were movers who put their own safety on the line (and gave up their lives) to reach equality in all things, including liberty.

Liberty is important because it goes to who we are as people. A dog is happy on a leash, he is happy in a fenced-in backyard, he is happy when an owner feeds him. A dog only becomes unhappy when abused. A dog, however, is a beast, and men are not dogs, but in many ways are far worse. A man who is kept on a leash, forced to live within a fence, supplied food and water, is a slave. Even if he is treated well, then he is only a well-treated slave. He is treated as lesser than the one who owns him and has no real freedom. Human beings, being rational, need the freedom to think and then act on these thoughts, this requires true liberty. When liberty is taken away, even for seemingly benevolent reasons, it opens the door for oppression to occur. Putting a whip in the master’s hand will allow him to protect you from any wolves that come after you, but it will also allow him to whip you for not obeying him. Liberty is important because it provides a check against human rights abuses by those in authority.

Even today, we struggle with liberty, but the difference between today and previous generations is that today we no longer pursue the ideal of liberty. We pursue the ideals of safety and tolerance, and those two couldn’t be further from liberty. In pursuing safety we happily give up our rights. Consider the latest NSA fiasco and how the NSA has now admitted that they actually do listen in on phone calls without warrants. This is done in the name of “national security” and “fighting terrorism” and so the public remains at ease. Our pursuit of tolerance has ruined liberty because we’ve somehow made “free from being offended” and “tolerance” synonymous. Thus, if a business owner refuses to participate in an activity he doesn’t agree with, that owner is sued and we try to make the government force him to act against his conscience. Why? Because it’s offensive to us that he would have a conscience different from our own.

On the issue of safety, one cannot pursue liberty, but then give precedence to safety. There is no compromise between the two, even if our President thinks one can be found. Either you pursue liberty and allow for safety within the pursuit of liberty (meaning that we can still listen in on phones and the like, but only with a warrant, only with just cause) or we allow for liberty within the pursuit of safety. The former is how strong nations develop, the latter is how tyrants form.

On the issue of tolerance, one cannot pursue liberty, but then give precedence to tolerance. I cannot say I support freedom of speech (which includes conscience) and then sue with any speech I disagree with. While it is true that we must protect citizens from the tyranny of other citizens, we must do so within reason. Forcing people to act against their religious beliefs does not protect liberty. The whole irony in the pursuit of tolerance is that it actually leads us to be quite intolerant of those we disagree with. “Tolerance” becomes a code word for, “Those who agree with me.” Traditionally, tolerance was saying, “I disagree with your position, but I’ll fight for your right to believe what you believe.” Now it means, “I disagree with your position and I’ll fight for the government to force you to act against that position.”

Tolerance has become a way for us to say, “It’s okay if you believe this way, but you better not act according to that belief.” That’s not liberty, that’s tyranny. If a Muslim wants to bow to Mecca five times a day and there are those who want to stop him, those who want the government to intervene, then a true lover of liberty would stand guard over the Muslim as he bows so as to protect him, even if he disagrees with Islam. If a Christian man doesn’t want to use his business to support a homosexual union, then a true lover of liberty would respect his decision and either boycott his business or start a competing business that catered to everyone, regardless of sexual orientation. Either way, he wouldn’t ask for government intervention to change how someone thinks and acts; again, that’s tyranny (just look at 1984). We used to believe that, “I disagree with you, but I’ll fight for your right to say it.” Now we want to silence our opponents, and this happens between both conservatives and liberals (think of how many people attempted to stop a mosque from being built near Ground Zero, even though the First Amendment protects all religions).

In giving up the ideal of liberty for the ideals of safety and tolerance we have put a time limit on this experiment called America. The America that once was, the one that was highly imperfect, but still pursuing liberty, will simply cease to exist. It only has a few more generations and, in truth, we may already be on the precipice of generations that are more willing to embrace tyranny. How long before the definition of “terrorist” is loosened and other people are included? The pursuit of safety and tolerance leaves open the door to persecution of those we disagree with, or who are labeled “intolerant.”

“But that would never happen here! We have laws that protect citizens from being persecuted by their government!” Yes, a government agency would never become corrupted to the point that it would target those who disagree with the policies of an administration so as to make their lives difficult. That would never happen in the United States, correct? I need not point to the Soviet Union or Hitler’s Germany for examples of what happens when safety and tolerance (eradicating those who disagree with you) are put into place above liberty, I can point to our own history. I can point to the FBI targeting civil rights groups in the 1950s and 60s, or Congress targeting suspecting Communists in the 1950s, or the Executive branch forcing Japanese-Americans into internment camps during WWII, or Nixon wiretapping his political opponents, or the IRS targeting conservative non-profits. There are many other examples within our own history of our government abusing any power it receives  of the examples I listed, only one was actually illegal under the law (the IRS issue is still being investigated).

When you give your master a whip to protect you from those you fear, you inevitably allow the master to whip you. When you allow the oppression of those you disagree with, it doesn’t take long before you disagree with the establishment on something else and you find yourself oppressed. This is not fear speaking, this is a voice from history. We were always told that those who didn’t study history were doomed to repeat it; but the study of history is not enough, we must understand it. We must realize that when liberty is no longer the ideal for a people group, the citizens become slaves, they face oppression, and it eventually results in the collapse of that society. That is the direction for America as it stands, but it is not too late to change our pursuit.

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Sowing what we reap or, This isn’t the Government we need right now, but it is the Government we deserve


DSC02086Forty years ago to the week, May 17, 1973, the nation was engulfed in a scandal when it was revealed that President Richard Nixon’s administration had broken into the Watergate Hotel in order to gain an advantage of his Democratic contenders. This week has seen scandal after scandal from our present administration that rival – and in some cases surpasses – the crimes of Nixon. For those looking for a post that bashes President Obama, however, please stop reading now. This post will point out his flaws and how his administration has been complicit in some troubling matters, but ultimately the blame is on us, whether conservative or liberal, Republican or Democrat; the society of America (or lack thereof) is to blame for what has occurred.

There are too many scandals to really mention. The two biggest that have broken lately would be the IRS targeting conservative groups and individuals who spoke out against the government and the Department of Justice tapping the phones of the Associated Press in order to find out who their sources were. The IRS not only targeted conservative groups, but they leaked confidential information about those groups to the media. What is sad is that there is still more to this scandal that we haven’t seen. The man in charge of investigating the actions of the IRS in its targeting, however, may not be the most trustworthy investigator. Eric Holder is embroiled in his own scandal of wire tapping the AP’s phone lines. When asked for documents explaining why the phones were tapped, the AP was provided with 100% redacted documents. Thus, the man in charge of investigating government overreach and corruption is accused of overreaching the limits of the Constitution by tapping the phones of a news agency. It’s like sending a lion to investigate the death of a zebra by another lion. All the while, other major scandals that have cost humans their lives have gone relatively unnoticed.

Perhaps you heard of Angelina Jolie’s double mastectomy. What you probably didn’t hear about was Kermit Gosnell, a trial that has flown relatively under the radar considering the subject material. One reporter did ask President Obama for his thoughts on Gosnell – considering that Obama supports the “right” of abortionists to kill babies born alive after an abortion – but he declined to answer because it was an “ongoing trial” (I think that’s the first time Obama let that impede a response, especially considering his comments about the Crowley/Gates scandal as well as Trayvon Martin’s death). But now? Perhaps someone should ask him again how he feels.

Not to pick solely on President Obama, consider the absolutely unreported scandal that thousands of Christians have died in the Middle East ever since we decided to invade Iraq in 2003. In fact, the most likely scenario is that Christians will become extinct in the Middle East – where Christianity began and has survived for 2,000 years – quicker than polar bears in the Arctic. US foreign policy, starting with George W. Bush, is responsible for the deaths and displacement of thousands of Christians. Bush gave the Iraqi government money, the same government that turned around and persecuted Christians. We simply looked the other way. Obama is giving guns to the Syrian rebels, who in turn have killed and kidnapped Christians. We cannot say, “Well that’s how Islam works,” because Christians have lived under Islamic rule there since the 7th century. Yet, today is the greatest persecution Christians in the Middle East have ever faced, and that’s even if we include the Roman Empire. Even at home, our corruption seems to ruin our freedom.

A Saudi student can’t even walk across campus with rice in a pressure cooker without being investigated by the FBI. When found innocent rather than issue an apology, the FBI tells him to be more careful. No, “Sorry that we’re racist,” rather they justify their bias and blame him. What is more sad is that most people would probably rationalize such an action, they would rationalize the eradication of freedom in the name of security. Of course, the irony is lost on most people; the price to live in a free society is that we must give up our freedom. That is to say, we’re no longer concerned about freedom, but more about security.

Our government is corrupt. While all governments are corrupt to a certain degree – that’s simply the nature of power, since all humans are corrupt to a certain degree – some governments excel at corruption. The US government has always had corruption, but typically it was the type invented in order to make money for a few individuals. The politicians knew that if they threatened individual freedoms that their ruse would collapse and all would be lost. Thus, the corruption was kept to money exchanging hands. Modern corruption, however, is more about seizing power than anything else.

The “corruption” is really a philosophical point of view, one that it is better to control society than let society grow on its own. It is better to control society because through control we can obtain better security; it’s better to give up freedom for the greater good. How did our government get to this place?

We can point to the Democrats or we can point to the Republicans, but we’d be mostly wrong. While each party has contributed in its own way, the fact is that they’ve been allowed to get away with it. A government is only an extension of the society it comes from, thus, the more corrupt the society is, the more corrupt the government will be. For too long, Americans have wallowed in egoism, hedonism, and relativism. We’ve lived by the mantra, “Do what feels right so long as it doesn’t harm anyone else.” But now we feel we can complain when our leaders live by the same mantra we’ve been chanting? We’re all moral relativists when it suits us, but become the most ardent ethical absolutist when we feel threatened. In short, the current government we have is the government we deserve.

We don’t deserve a good government, one that cares for us, one that knows its role and operates within that role appropriately. In order to deserve that kind of government, we would have to be people that had a strong moral foundation. As it is, America lacks a strong moral foundation, or any moral foundation. We are a society without morals; if our society were an individual, that individual would be a sociopath. The government we have is the result of our society chucking morality to the side and living for whatever whim came its way. We’ve made our bed and now we must lay in it.