Freedom as Duty

This week, the United States celebrated Independence Day. But what is Independence Day? It is not the anniversary of the expulsion of British forces from the States. Neither is it a celebration of the establishment of the federal government of the United States. No, it is actually the anniversary of the signing of The Declaration of Independence. The celebration, properly understood, is not about the country or government of the United Sates, but about the statement of a universal right for men to be free.

To be sure, The Declaration is about the United States specifically and consists primarily of complaints against the oppressive government of the colonies by Great Britain, but it has a much larger view. “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.” These are the rights of all men everywhere. And when a government abridges or fails to protect these rights, it is not only the right of the people to “alter or abolish it,… it is their duty.”

If freedom so deeply rooted in the soul of man and every person has a duty to fight for his freedom, how can despotism ever exist? Force and the threat of force are surely enough to dissuade some or most people from attempting to assert their rights. More often, however, the duty to fight for freedom becomes neglected in the same way that most duty is neglected, laziness and habit. Over time, people become accustomed to the gradual usurpation of their rights and “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.” It takes a concerted effort and a good deal of courage to not be complacent. But it is not just ones right to stand up for freedom, it is one’s duty.

When reflecting on the recent holiday, remember that it was not a celebration of the flag or for the republic for which it stands. Independence Day is a celebration of the God-given right of all men to be free and an exhortation to fulfill one’s duty to defend that right.

Beer of the Week: Miller Genuine Draft – This style of beer is known as an “American adjunct lager.” It is the most popular style of beer in the world. This is because it is bland, inoffensive, and cheap. Better than Budweiser, MGD is not that bad; it is simply boring. Still, I’d much sooner drink it than throw it into Boston Harbor.

Reading of the week: The Declaration of Independence, Paragraph 2 by Thomas Jefferson – “We hold these truths to be self-evident…” The second paragraph of The Declaration of Independence is the most philosophically dense and interesting section. It addresses natural rights, social contract theory and is simply very well written.

Question of the week: Can one make the free choice to accept slavery?

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