Give us Liberty or -- What?

Patrick Henry understood the dichotomy our forefathers faced.  And now we face the same options. We all see liberty slipping away -- no, being yanked out of our hands by forces so evil we can barely wrap our Pollyanna brains around it.  Here? This can be happening here? We warn about losing our freedom. We give examples -- COVID mandates, travel restrictions, educational issues, etc. ad nauseam -- but Biden supporters still exist.  RINO Republicans still exist. The swamp is still full of monsters. The situation has made me realize that too few people seem to understand what freedom and liberty really mean.

Freedom is not some vague red-white-and-blue theme song. It’s not drums beating and marching bands. It’s not just a feel-good flag to wave. It’s something that generations fought, bled, and died for, so shouldn’t it have some solidity to it? Shouldn’t it be something palpable, heavy, and real -- something you can grab hold of? Lofty ideas are necessary, but, like helium balloons, they have to be tied to something solid or they just float away.

Freedom, where it exists, produces remarkable results. Freedom allows us to be good, to be our best. Harrison Bergeron, in the Kurt Vonnegut short story of the same name, says toward the end, “Watch me become what I can become.” Because he was so superior -- in mind, body, determination, and courage -- he had been made to endure terrible handicaps to keep those around him from feeling inferior (even though they were). He makes that declaration as he defiantly rips off the bags of lead weights and removes the mask that made him ugly.

Freedom allows us to -- like Harrison -- become what we can become. What an exhilarating idea! What happens when we are not dissuaded from excellence? (And that’s exactly what CRT and all its adjacent claptrap does -- dissuades us from excellence.) What happens when we get out of each other’s way?

When no alphabet agency is intercepting our email, we can exchange ideas. And when no one is watching our pronouns, or editing our speech, we can express ourselves. When we do that and express a lame idea -- like the 1619 Project -- we can lay it open and expose its wormy guts. Without freedom we can’t do that. We have to swallow whatever bilge they want to feed us.

Each of us is born with a conscience and that conscience has to be free to operate. We all know deep in our souls that grooming small children to accept sexual deviance is wrong and damaging to the child, but in a controlled society, where such behavior is favored by those in high places, those who object are labeled terrorists and hounded into silence. It is true that in a free society not everyone will choose to follow his conscience, but in a community made up largely of good, God-fearing people, that won’t be a problem because those good folks will express their disdain for all that is evil and will drive it from them. Very few formal laws will be necessary.

But in a community where the citizens celebrate evil, it will prosper, and then, to make the society function at all, laws and regulations abound because the people will not control themselves. Evil hurts everyone. Good helps everyone.

But, you say, isn’t freedom about doing whatever you want to do? No. It’s about being the best you can be -- not about being the worst you can manage. It’s about having the leeway to create, not destroy. It’s about building, not about tearing down. It’s not about lounging around smoking weed; it’s about working, becoming, expanding. Our Declaration of Independence talks about “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.” The burgeoning suicide rate should show us that we’re no longer catching up with happiness in spite of silencing our shared conscience.

Freedom produces prosperity. Those who are free to study, to learn, to practice, to experiment, to tell the truth -- those people make things, things other people want and are willing to work to obtain. It creates an ever-climbing vortex energized by the human desire to excel. Why is it that the rich keep working? Because they want to become all they can become. The more rules and regulations placed on people, the less they will engage in productivity, the less creative they become. The more we are restricted, the more energy we must expend in order to get around the restrictions. (I’ve never understood why the Left thinks it can pass a law and everyone will just get in line and obey. History proves that’s not how it works.)

Freedom is not only prosperity, which carries a sense of luxury and affluence, but it is life itself. How did Stalin maintain control of the people of westernmost parts of the Soviet Union? He starved them to death -- some 20 million of them. That is the ultimate control. But without freedom, starvation will happen naturally. If farmers can no longer have access (because of too much regulation -- see Sri Lanka) to good seed, decent soil, fertilizer, and farm equipment, they can’t grow what we all need to eat. If farmers can’t afford to get their crops to market, if there aren’t enough processing plants -- I mean, I wouldn’t know what to do with a cow if you gave me one -- then there will be no food in the stores. If supplies get too short, but money too easy to come by then everything will cost more and we can’t afford it even if it is grown, processed, and delivered. Without food we have no freedom. Without freedom we have no food.

Without education we have neither. I don’t mean indoctrination -- I mean the telling of truth to our children. We have lied to them now for several generations and now they are largely ignorant of the truths of science, literature, history, civics, math, and most practical skills.  If we are to have both the necessities of life and some of the niceties, we have to have freedom, but if we don’t have an intelligent, well-informed populace we can’t have that liberty.  Those man-on-the-street pop quizzes give me the willies -- people who vote and yet don’t know the first thing about either the history or geography of this country.  It’s no wonder we have a White House stocked with ignoramuses.

I have no doubt that we are going to have to stand with Patrick Henry and demand liberty or be willing to give our lives to gain it for others. We are going to have to fight.  We can fight by informing ourselves -- try some of the free online classes from Hillsdale College or the Patriot Academy. We can fight at school board meetings. We can fight supporting those who are fighting -- buying and reading their books, reading their articles, watching their podcasts. We can fight by talking and writing ourselves. We can fight best by making sure that we, and our families, are lined up with the God of the Universe because it is ultimately He who will either save or abandon this nation.

Deana Chadwell is an adjunct professor and department head at Pacific Bible College in southern Oregon. She teaches writing, logic, and literature.

Image: Library of Congress

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