History is marked with the struggle between freedom and control. Society after society finds itself fighting to choose between the freedom of the individual and the control of a central power. Today, on America’s 236th birthday, we find ourselves caught in that same struggle of ideals.
The lessons for us today taught by history are many, but the ability to apply them to our lives is obscured by close-ness to our current situation. Our penchant for partisan politics, attention grabbing news headlines and schedules kept full to the brim preclude us from keeping a firm grasp on what is a universal struggle: What does it mean to be free?
We live today in a world where freedom is near extinction. External control, both outright and subversive, abounds in the lives of almost every inhabitant of a civilized nation. Outside influences seek to exert control over nearly every thought, word, and action in the name of power, safety, or political correctness. The rights of the individual are seen as less important than the prosperity of the collective.
Perhaps the historical significance of July 4th can be the impetus for each of us to consider this question and what it means to us, both as individuals, and collectively as a nation. Let’s take a look today at freedom: what it is, what it means, and what we can do to save it for ourselves and future generations.
What Is Freedom?
The Oxford dictionary defines freedom as “the power or right to act, speak, or think as one wants.”
True freedom is not something that can be given to you. No outside force can change anything about the way that you act if you choose to take a certain action. These outside forces can only influence your desire to take action through the creation of laws and moral codes, and associated punishments for breaking said laws and codes.
Even God cannot force you to act. He gives every man, woman, and child the ability to act as they choose.
Freedom, then, is not a gift that you are given or allowed to have by any outside influence. It is a characteristic of the human condition, given only by our creator. You are free by your very nature in every sense of the word, to act, speak, or think as you desire.
You have the right to be free. It is, in fact, the most basic right of mankind.
Freedom is a characteristic independent of all others. It is so completely overarching that it is independent of even right and wrong. We are so inherently free that we can take absolutely any action we choose, no matter how lawful or moral it may be. Freedom is independent of government. Freedom is independent of religion. Freedom is the very essence of being human.
This freedom permeates our being. It is not simply the ability to do as we wish. It is the right to think, speak, and act. It is freedom of mind, freedom of body, and freedom of expression.
The level of freedom we truly have as individuals is difficult to comprehend in our world, where we are expected to live in a certain manner as expected of us by our government and our society. Barring the few corners of the globe that civilized living has not yet reached, every child is raised from the very beginning of their life with a sense of right and wrong, should and shouldn’t.
This programming of individuals is then taken over by society and government as we age. Laws, ordinances, regulations, expectations, norms, and the like all become a part of the fabric of one’s being.
Freedom, then, being so much a basic right of all people, can only be limited by force or relinquished by the individual; never improved upon.
To Be Given Away
If true freedom were the standard, there would be no moral codes and no laws. Each individual would take whatever actions they chose, free even to choose whether or not to take into consideration the impact of their actions on other individuals.
As individuals, and collectively as societies, we decide how close we want to live to this level of freedom.
Often, we are willing to give away certain aspects of our freedom in exchange for something. The most basic example being morality. As a society, we have determined that certain actions by individuals will not be tolerated, and will rather be punished. We give away the freedom to take certain actions such as killing and stealing so that others will also be required to do the same, providing us with a sense of security.
Yet still, no moral code can prohibit an action by an individual. If it could, there would be no murder or theft. We are so free as individuals, we can still choose to take these sorts of immoral actions in spite of any sense of right and wrong. We must choose not to take the actions. Moral codes, therefore, do not take away our individual freedom, they only serve to give us reason to surrender some part of that freedom.
Laws, created by the ruling class, can serve the same purpose; to give us reason to surrender our freedom in exchange for a service, safety, money, or a promise of the same. But even still, we choose if we desire to live by these laws, or if we desire to act freely.
To Be Taken Away
In order that there be oversight of these freedoms that have been given up willingly, societies appoint or elect men and women to take leadership positions. These positions serve to create and enforce the mutually agreed upon limitations on the full freedom of the individual, giving them authority to decide when these rules have or have not been broken, and to dole out punishments when necessary.
This very point, when one human is given power to rule over another, is always the beginning of the end of the freedom of the individual.
Any level of power that one man or woman has over another will eventually be abused. Indeed, it has done so throughout the history of mankind.
The power to rule gives the power to force action or inaction by those ruled over. Whether given in the context of government, religion, or association, this power has been perverted at every turn to cause others to surrender freedom, even by the most well meaning leaders.
When put into the hands, or seized by the hands, of corrupt individuals, this power to enforce necessary rules to ensure freedom for individuals is transformed into the power to create and enforce new rules. At this point, when one man or group of men with power has been given the ability to create and enforce any new rule they wish, they have also been given the ability to seize freedoms from the individual at will.
The Progressive Declination Of Freedom
Once freedom is lost, be it by gift or by theft, it is rarely regained without significant sacrifice. Therefore, over time, as we give up freedoms and have them willfully taken from us, we become progressively less free. Each new generation learns how free it is allowed to be by those from the prior generations who hold the positions of power as they are raised.
As this new generation comes of age and begins to take power from the prior generation, it then determines from its learned level of acceptable freedom what new laws, rules, and moral codes it will put in place. What would have been seen as unreasonably restrictive a few generations prior is seen only as a slight sacrifice by those raised with more restrictions on their own freedom.
Generation by generation, the ability to act, think, and speak as one wants slips away. That which is ours by our very nature is never experienced in its most full and real sense, only the stripped down portions that have been left by the sacrifices of the past.
This is how freedom comes to be seen as only something we are allowed to have in small doses; a gift of those who rule over us rather than an inherent trait of all mankind. And it becomes progressively more so until the rule becomes so oppressive that it becomes intolerable. When the masses awaken to realize that, although they have the innate ability to act however they choose, they are not free to do so, there begins the uprising.
This paradox is one where hope springs eternal. When a part of who we are has been taken from us, there is nothing that will stop us from taking it back.
236 Years Ago
Today marks 236 years since America’s founders officially declared her independence from its rulers. The inhabitants of the colonies had reached their breaking point after several intolerable acts meant to exert further control over the colonies by the King of England.
And so, with great courage, a group of now-famous men drafted the Declaration Of Independence, outlining the rights of the individual, declaring these rights as “inalienable.” And thus began the emancipation of the colonies from England, eventually forming an alliance of sorts between individual States to form a new nation, the United States Of America.
This was perhaps the most significant event in human history since the death of Christ Jesus on the cross at Calvary. With the swipe of a pen, and the war that followed, America’s forefathers pushed back this progressive declination of freedom from the point of oppressive rule all the way back to the God-given rights of the individual, reclaiming that which was, and always had been, theirs.
In doing so, they formed a new nation, one which was to be a haven for the rights of the individual, limited only in ways absolutely essential to the formation of a moral and ethical society.
“Divide et impera”
As time has passed, as it invariably does, the thirst for power over men by men has slowly eroded these rights once again. We find ourselves as a nation arguing not against the ever advancing control held over us by the ruling class, but over how free we should be allowed to be. We are pitted against each other by those who rule over us, fighting over which laws are acceptable and which are not. We are divided by politicians and a complicit media over issues of social justice, fiscal responsibility, class and taxation.
We have, as a nation, allowed ourselves to be divided and systematically conquered. While we are given issue after issue to disagree upon, fight over, and attempt to resolve, we fail to recognize that we are being divided into groups too small alone, and too entrenched against one another to come together, to have the ability to push back against the crushing weight of the destruction of our liberty.
Walls are being built between us like prisoners, only to be let out of our cell to fight over each new divisive issue. We are taught to believe that if our side of the division “wins” on an issue, that we have then won as individuals, when really, we’ve just been led to the slaughterhouse of another freedom and been allowed to fight over which way it will die.
We elect new leaders by the slimmest of margins who represent the views of barely half of our country, imploring them to pass new laws, start new wars or end old ones, and increase or decrease taxes. We legislate the opinions of any majority or demanding minority that can be assembled. We hand over freedoms based on whatever issue is fed to us as the popular issue of the moment.
All the while, we celebrate every time our individual views “win” while forgetting that with every victory, another freedom has been lost, pushing America further down the slide of the progressive loss of freedom. Giving up that which cannot be regained without serious sacrifice.
Freedom at the expense of the liberty of another is no freedom at all. Until we can come together as a society and agree that each individual has the inalienable right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, we will continue to be divided and conquered.
When our forefathers saw their rights and freedoms being taken away, they determined that the oppression needed to be pushed back. They did so by first outlining the rights of every human being, and reclaiming those rights in the name of the One who gave them.
This revolt did not occur all at once. It began with a yearning for freedom by individuals living in the colonies, who were subject to an oppressive rule, and the yearning in their own hearts to be free of it. A revolution of many must start within the heart and mind of each one.
If we are to regain our individual freedoms, we must first win the internal fight over freedom versus entitlement. As individuals, we must return to a strong sense of reliance on ourselves. We must personally come to reject any form of welfare given to us, even if we are entitled to receive it by our current society’s standards. We must come to an understanding that nothing done by government is free, but is instead possible by the theft of freedom from another fellow American. We must respect the rights of our neighbors to act freely, even if we don’t personally agree with their actions. We must accept that some will be wealthy and others will not. Most of all, we must no longer allow ourselves to be divided over issues that do not further the cause of individual liberty.
In essence, we must first fall back wholeheartedly in love with freedom as individuals. We must be willing to reject entitlement in favor of self reliance and give up forcing others in favor of respecting their freedom. We must be willing to pay the individual price of giving up external reliance whereever possible before we will ever be able to push back against the powers that have divided us. The power held over us as a whole is dependent on our individual reliance on the power we have given them.
This internal battle must be fought and won by each one of us in order that we might develop the internal will and resolve that will be necessary when the time comes to reclaim that which is, always was, and always will be ours.
United We Stand
86,140 days ago, we declared our independence as a nation, united in favor of the liberty of the individual.
Today, once again, it is time to turn our attention to that which unites us and away from the issues that divide us. It is time to again embrace the freedom of the individual. We must reject those who serve to divide us. We must put the issues that come between us aside. We must put our love for the freedom of mind, body, and spirit ahead of the desire to have our neighbor act the way we wish they would.
We are not a nation of Democrats and Republicans. We are not a nation of upper, middle and lower classes. We are not a nation of different races or religions.
We are a nation of free individuals with rights endowed by our Creator. Rights which go far beyond the issues that divide us. Rights that were re-claimed for us 236 years ago. Rights our forefathers risked everything to re-claim for every man, woman and child.
My fellow Americans, it is time to decide. Will we come together and once again embrace the freedom of the individual, or will the idea that a nation of free individuals can lead themselves be forever lost? The history that will be studied 236 years into the future is happening today.
Will our descendants look back at this point in America’s history as evidence that mankind can live free? Or will they look back at America as an example of how even the most free nation in the history of the earth was pushed into submission of tyrannical rule?
The choice is up to us. To paraphrase General John Stark, will we live free, or will we die?
Have a joyful day!
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