Have you ever thought about what it truly means to be free?
Does “Freedom” mean that you can run naked down the street and then through a playground of young children? Does it mean that you can marry a 9 year old? Does it mean that you can smoke a lid of marijuana, go out and get in your car, have an accident, and maim or kill somebody?
Outside Independence Hall when the Constitutional Convention of 1787 ended, Mrs. Powel of Philadelphia asked Benjamin Franklin, “Well, Doctor, what have we got, a republic or a monarchy?” With no hesitation whatsoever, Franklin responded, “A republic, if you can keep it.”
What did he mean by that? Was he merely speaking of the inner workings of the Federal Government, which he and the Founding Fathers so masterfully designed?
Or, was he talking about this complex matter known as American Freedom?
Ronald Reagan said,
Freedom is never more than one generation away from extinction. We didn’t pass it to our children in the bloodstream. It must be fought for, protected, and handed on for them to do the same.
Was Ronaldus Magnus speaking about our Freedom as a nation? Or, the freedom of the individual?
The answer is yes. Both.
President Reagan knew how fragile this precious thing called freedom is. So did Dr. Franklin.
Dr. Franklin, along with our other Founding Fathers, pledged his life, his fortune, and his sacred honor in pursuit of it.
When he made that now-famous quote to Mrs. Powel, he was expressing his worry that seceding generations, having attained their freedom so easily, might grow lackadaisical and so spoiled by it, that they would squander it through self-indulgence. Franklin was, in fact, so leery of losing this new republic that he said,
Those who would give up essential Liberty, to purchase a little temporary Safety, deserve neither Liberty nor Safety.
He was afraid that Americans would rely and trust those in power over them to the extent that they would surrender their freedom to them.
Sound familiar? Does the phrase “gun control” ring a bell?
I know that it is a phrase which you have no doubt heard before, but, as I write this blog, we are closer to losing this fragile American Freedom, than we have been since my parent’s generation, known as “the Greatest Generation”.
Please allow me to relate to you a story about my Daddy (a Southern colloquialism denoting a male parental unit), an average young man, tossed into a situation beyond his wildest imagination. One of those “fight or flight situations” all the psychiatrists like to theorize about in the Halls of Academia. However, this was no theory. This situation was as real as it gets:
By the time the sun set on June 6, 1944,more than 9,000 Allied soldiers were dead or wounded, and more than 100,000 had made it ashore, capturing French coastal villages. Within weeks, supplies were being unloaded at Utah and Omaha beachheads at the rate of more than 20,000 tons per day. By June 11, more than 326,000 troops, 55,000 vehicles, and 105,000 tons of supplies had been landed on the beaches. By June 30, the Allies had established a firm foothold in Normandy. Allied forces crossed the River Seine on August 19.
There has never been an exact count of the sacrifices made on D-Day. Although, it is estimated that more than 425,000 Allied and German troops were killed, wounded, or went missing during the battle. 209,000 of those who lost their lives were Allied forces.
Among the young men who stepped off those boats, in a hail of gunfire, was a fellow named Edward, whom everyone called Ned, from the small town of Helena, Arkansas. Already in his young life, Ned had been forced to drop out of school in the sixth grade, in order to work at the local movie theater to help support his mother, brother, and sister faced with the ravages of the Great Depression.
He was a gentle man who loved to laugh and sing, having recorded several 78 rpm records in the do-it-yourself booths of the day. And now, he found himself, a Master Sergeant in an Army Engineering Unit, stepping off of a boat into the unknown, watching his comrades being mercilessly gunned down around him.
Ned, along with the rest of his unit who survived the initial assault, would go on to assist in the cleaning out of the Concentration Camps, bearing witness to man’s inhumanity to man.
The horrors he saw had a profound effect on Ned. One that he would keep to himself for the remainder of his life. While my older sisters and I knew that he served with an Engineering Unit in World War II, we did not know the full extent of his service, until we found his medal, honoring his participation in the Invasion of Normandy, going through his belongings after he passed away on December 29, 1997.
There are a number of Americans nowadays who seem to believe that “Freedom” is merely a personal thing, a state which is unaffected by any unethical, immoral, or irresponsible actions committed by those around them, including family, friends, or strangers. They, in turn, seem oblivious of their responsibility to other Americans, as we all attempt to protect and nurture this fragile thing we call “Freedom”.
Our Legacy of Freedom, bequeathed to us as American citizens, is not just the blessing of being a free people, but, the responsibility that goes with it, as my Daddy knew all too well…
a responsibility to our family, our friends, our fellow citizens, and the Author of Our Freedom as Americans, Our Creator.
A responsibility that is our charge to keep.
Until He Comes,