Just as I require myself to watch the Passion of the Christ every Easter week so that I’m reminded of exactly what it took for Jesus to earn my eternal salvation, I require myself to stop amidst the fireworks, carnivals, parades, grill-outs, and think about exactly what it took to earn my EARTHLY freedom. Our gorgeous land of purple mountain majesty and amber waves of grain turns 236 years old today, and since we live in an instantaneous society in which things are forgotten as soon as the next Facebook message or Tweet comes across the wire, I figured it might be prudent to remind everyone the sacrifice behind those 236 years.
Before some people look at the following and start screaming about how we are a war-loving, militaristic society, I’d like to remind the reader that with each war fought, and with each precious life lost, the dangers of Communism, Socialism, Fascism, Totalitarianism, Nazism, Radicalism-take your pick of threats of freedom- have been kept at bay.
Revolutionary War: 4,435
War of 1812: 2,260
Mexican War: 13,283
Civil War, 1861-1865: 364,511 (Union); 289,000 (Confederate)
Spanish-American War: 2,446
World War I: 116,516
World War II: 405,399
Korean War: 36,574
Vietnam War: 58,220
Persian Gulf War: 383
Iraq/Afghanistan Wars: 4,477 (Iraq), 1888 (Afghanistan)
Toby Keith said it best in the epic song he wrote shortly after the heinous attacks of 9/11: “American girls and American guys/We’ll always stand up and salute, we’ll always recognize/When we see Old glory flying, there’s a lot of men dead/So we can sleep in peace at night when we lay down our heads. . .”
You can argue all day long about whether or not some or all of these wars are “justified,” but what I want to make unequivocally clear is that hundreds of thousands American men and women died in defense of the very flag we wave today. Children grew up without fathers; brothers lost brothers, wives lost husbands, fathers raised their children alone. . . all so that we could live in the land of the free and the home of the brave. Do you understand the blessing we have here? Do you understand that we live in a society free from fear because some soldier in the middle of a desert of the Middle East or the jungles of Asia, or the snows of Poland swallowed THEIR fears and marched on TOWARDS the danger? Would you run towards the line of fire for the sake of Americans not yet even born? Would you take a bullet so that the hero in uniform next to you wouldn’t have to die for his country?
Do you realize that in Iran I would be arrested, flogged, and probably executed for what I do with this blog? Do you realize that in Great Britain you are subject to the whims of a health panel in charge of deciding your fate? Do you realize that in Darfur your childhood could be stolen by genocide and violence? Do you realize that in China you would be arrested for sharing your faith? Do you realize that in North Korea thousands of people are BORN into concentration camps to spend their entire lives in a state of fear and endless torture? Do you realize that in Benin it is commonplace for professors to rape female students as part of getting a “passing grade”? Do you realize that in Egypt your husband can beat you to death in the name of Shari’a Law?
The world is large, and that list is long.
Instead I’d rather that you focus on these words:
When in the Course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.
We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.–That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, –That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to affect their Safety and Happiness. Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shewn, that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security.
A room full of men from across the colonies signed away their sacred honor and even their lives to stand up to the most powerful empire on the planet. I don’t know if the Founders realized that we would one day replace the British Empire as the world’s superpower, but I do believe they knew that if guided by the precepts they outlined, we would unquestionably become the FREEST nation on the planet. And free we did become. We have our warts; we have our mistakes. I challenge you, however, to find a nation that has faced those warts and mistakes head on, and done as much as it could to rectify those problems. I challenge you to name a nation or empire that once a war was won, it gave the territory BACK to the people? I challenge you to name a nation that fights a war, and then pays to clean the mess up afterwards. I challenge you to name a nation that does more to financially and militarily support other countries and cultures around the world. I challenge you.
We became the great land that we are because for the first time in human history, personal liberty and individual drive, ingenuity and entrepreneurship were given center stage. To be sure, there have been powerful cultures and empires in the past that did not build their greatness on the pillars of freedom but rather on the backs of human repression and enslavement, but were these empires truly “great” in the full sense of the word? I contend that a nation that has risen to the highest levels of political power but yet lacks the recognition of person liberty; that is, the understanding that every single individual is endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness, is no great nation. Our country was based upon this concept, and its government was originally created solely to protect the inhabitants therein from threats to these three inalienable rights.
In a day and age in which more and more Americans are dependent on the government for their every need; when more and more Americans are enslaved to an ever-growing federal giant that dictates more of our personal lives as each day passes. . . are we still free? Think about that for a moment. Our Founders signed away the lives they knew to send a document in defiance to a far away king. Our brave men and women in uniform have DIED in our defense. For what? So that the government can tell us what to buy? How to live? What to eat? Where to pray?
Are we honoring their ultimate sacrifice?