The founders of the American republic were not saints.
Nor did they harbor any illusions about the perfections or perfectibility of human nature.
The American framers knew full well that the law is by no means a perfect or infallible tool for ensuring universal liberty and justice.
They recognized, however, that the risks of freedom were preferable by far to the false benevolence of any sort of authoritarian rule.
The mechanism of electoral, legislative, administrative and judicial checks and balances the American founders devised intentionally placed as many obstacles as possible in the way of what might be the inflamed passions of the moment.
Having wrested freedom and self-rule for themselves away from the far-off whims of a despotic king, the early American patriots sought to preserve and advance the principles and practice of freedom, against the ancient human tendency to seek security under the arbitrary rule of kings, strongmen and warlords.
Today, a timid and fearful public – continually stampeded with endless perceived and contrived emergencies – demands increasing subsidy and displays of divine omnipotence from those entrusted with the public task of defending and advancing that hard-won freedom.
The wish to be ruled by kings and tribal “big men” is an old desire, appearing strangely today no less at home in our modern society long thought dedicated to the opposite ideal of individual freedom, than it was in the feudal monarchies of medieval Europe or tribal Africa.
Freedom is hard and requires both hard work and personal initiative – which may be why so many people today are so seemingly afraid of it, and so seemingly willing to trade it all away for the promise of a little economic security.
This odd child-like yearning for the parent-like rule of kings thus may be partly attributable to either an innate or indoctrinated fear of individual freedom and personal responsibility.
Under the pretext of rescuing hapless citizens from the incalculable peril of liberty, those men and women acting in the role of government and claiming to possess both god-like powers of divine omnipotence and exemption from the laws of nature and of man, have increasingly claimed for themselves far-reaching powers of repression and control.
We have learned to speak softly in the presence of authority (or of the “woke”), to bow and smile and use only the approved words and approved ideas with scarcely a whisper of dissent, to hide ourselves facelessly behind bits of paper or cloth, to distance ourselves from our family and neighbors or to consider them a threat, and to accept into our bodies the injection of experimental substances with the seemingly benevolent assurances that we will be safer with them than without.
But what of Democracy?
To the extent that democracy allows its participants to come to their own conclusions and to chase their own dreams, it provides them not only the chance to achieve those dreams, but the best chance to survive the process.
The principles of liberty are always at risk. The practice of self-government is too easily overturned, and once lost, requires much hard work, blood and treasure to restore.
If we want to live in freedom, we must learn to endure the fearsome shadows on the walls and the lonely sound of the wind in the trees – and the imagined threats that lie just outside of our view.
People who have lost faith in themselves, however, who no longer know, understand or appreciate their own history – triumphs as well as errors – and who no longer have trust in themselves and their creator, will no longer be able to summon the energy to imagine their own future – with results that will be a disaster for all.
They retreat into a state of immobilized fear, seeking salvation from anyone who will promise to deliver them another few moments of perceived peace and security, a free smart phone, or a few thousand dollars a month into their bank account at someone else’s expense and with no effort required.
To the extent that modern society has emerged from barbarism, it is because – and not in spite of – the hopes and dreams of ordinary people which have prevailed over the claimed interests of government.
America as a constitutional Republic and its structured democratic processes represent humankind’s best attempt so far to organize a liberated human spirit and freedom of the mind against the forces of despotic tyranny and superstition.
Democracy is perhaps better characterized as a habit of mind rather than a system of government.
We protect the other fellow’s liberty in the interests of protecting our own. American patriotism and love of country comes from the love and devotion to its freedoms.
Civilizations do not decline and nations do not fall because of freedom.
Instead, they die from the fear of thought and the paralysis of spirit that accompanies the worship of kings and desire for the false securities offered by despots.
It was this simple truth that the American founders understood and sought to leave to their descendants.
Chris Nelson-Jeffers of Wausau
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