Why Are We Here? (Part 3)
“Now the Lord is that Spirit: and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty.”
~ 2 Corinthians 3:17 (KJV)
Greetings my fellow Americans!
While an answer to the title of this series continues to be the main thrust behind the subtopics being expounded, I’d like to re-establish the governance framework for what our Founders believed was necessary to facilitate that why. Liberty, having been deemed the second of three “unalienable” rights to which we have been “endowed by our Creator,” deserves some additional unpacking of its own, apart from that of Life which we targeted earlier in this series. It was to be no more unjustly infringed upon in our American social compact than Life or the Pursuit of Happiness, and was certainly not to be subjectively granted by the likes of anyone wielding the power of government.
But what is meant by Liberty in the American context, and what does possessing a right to it imply for the individual seeking to both exercise and maintain it within human society? First, let us establish what it does not mean: that is, the freedom to do whatever, whenever, one wishes at any given time, unencumbered, regardless of consequences, and protected or sanctioned by government, regardless of physical appearance or social or financial standing. It was not to be government’s role in America to proactively define, nor enforce so-called freedoms, but, rather, to intercede only when called upon to arbitrate between those seeking to exercise their liberty who otherwise believe their right to do so is being infringed upon by another.
The infamous demarcation between Church and State notwithstanding, the former’s role in promoting morality and self-discipline was considered to be primary in helping to ensure that such conflicts between God-fearing members of the American community would be few and far between. Liberty, then, was to be an individual’s right to choose courses of action which he deemed most appropriate to his existence, with the responsibility to recognize, assess, and appropriately deal with the impact such exercises of choice would have on others, and the consequences of neglect or disregard of those others that could or would be realized by him.
In other words, true Liberty in the American sense would only flourish amongst a responsible citizenry, i.e., one in whose majority of members recognized, and behaved in accordance with, the two greatest commandments imparted to us by Jesus Christ:
“Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind…. And the second is like it: Love your neighbor as yourself.” ~ Matthew 22: 37, 39 (NIV)
Love of God requires love of neighbor, and vice versa. Our American right to Liberty is premised on this handshake of virtues; our founding documents, and, hence, government’s originally limited and enumerated powers, are silent (and rightly so) on the personal responsibility of those pledging allegiance to those words, and each other, to self-govern such that we all may enjoy our right to Liberty.
A citizenry which takes responsibility for self-discipline does not need tomes of legislation, nor tens of millions of politicians and enforcing bureaucrats, to tell them how they must behave and how their rights to Liberty must be subjugated to some group or utopian ideal because of a perceived systemic injustice or social engineering experiment. Restraint of the Self is rooted in the awareness not only of the other Selves with whom he shares this planet, but also that all of us owe our existence, and that of the world around us, to a Creator outside of ourselves to whom we should be both grateful and fearful—grateful for the gift of opportunity to experience life, and fearful of the eternal consequences of not respecting that gift in others. Our government was lawfully required to stay out of our daily lives, and we were required to make sure it abided by those restrictions. That is the American definition of Liberty.
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