Sunday, February 5

Give Me Liberty

Let me see.

Defend the freedom of Speech, or

Not risk offending a Muslim.

Decisions, decisions.

A lot of people place these two as competing values that are equal in merit, but are they? It might be worthwhile to consider these two and see what we come up with. If I were an American politician in these times, I would be concerned about going back to our ideological roots and remember what it is that we actually believe.

A constitution is basically a pact between a government and a people. In our case, the Constitution of the United States of America instituted a new nation. Abraham Lincoln, in the Gettysburg Address, understood it as a nation conceived in Liberty.

"Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent, a new nation, conceived in Liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal."

Americans understood the foundation of the United States of America as a nation founded on ideas. Not ethnicity, not religion, but ideas. Specifically the concept that consumed them was liberty. We were a nation consumed with liberty. Men such as Patrick Henry were willing to die for it.

"Give me Liberty, or give me death," he declared.

One such did die for the cause of liberty. Nathan Hale spoke eloquently to the very people that were willing to give him the one, but not the other.

He said, "I only regret that I have but one life to lose for my country."

I mention these patriots to give context to this conversation. Brave men died for the concept of liberty. They left us a common heritage that is unlimited by blood, by race, or by religion. They left us a heritage of liberty, where all men who love liberty are my brothers.

At the time it was written, many of the concepts found in the Constitution were regarded as radical, especially in Europe. It is no small tribute to the intelligence and eloquence of the Authors of the Constitution that we now find Europe defending the very ideals found in the First Amendment to the Constitution. Granted it is not the same Europe, but the ideals are the same. Freedom of Speech. Freedom of Religion. Freedom of the Press.

Listening to some journalists carry on about the freedom of the press, I conclude that they have lost the way. They have lost the way because they have forgotten what it is all about. They speak of the freedom of the press as if it were some custodial right given to the precious few who have been chosen to be journalists. The rights of freedom of speech, freedom of religion, and freedom of the press were not pulled out of thin air to create some sort of utopian LaLa Land where everybody would live happily ever after.

These rights were written into the Constitution of the United States of America because the Founding Fathers viewed them as essential for the success of the nation. They are essential for our success because no nation founded on ideals will survive long unless the best ideas rise to the top. The Founding Fathers hope was to create a nation where a free exchange of ideas would produce the best possible nation.

The freedom of religion, the freedom of the press, and the freedom of speech are only different expressions of the free exchange of ideas. Undoubtedly, the Founding Father understood that not all ideas were good ideas, that people were bound to disagree, and yes, some were bound to be offended. Yet it is interesting to note that the Constitution of the United States does not provide rules for civil discourse. It provides freedoms. It provides for liberty. And it makes no distinctions in the free exercise of those freedoms. And because it does not, it is understood that those who are offended by what someone might say about any topic, including religion, and sexual orientation, to name a couple, have no recourse. They have no standing in the face of freedom of speech.

Except one. They too can get up on a soapbox and defend their idea in the free marketplace of ideas. If they are right, they should be able to convince others. If not, maybe they need a new hobby.

Our forebearers thought so much of this way of life that they were willing to risk a nation to try it. Even more, they were willing to risk their lives. Maybe it is time for Americans to risk something for the precious freedoms we enjoy.

The reason why millions of rioting Muslims are burning down their house is because their religion is not defensible in the marketplace of ideas. It is neither a true nor honorable religion.

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