Commonwealth Journal

July 6, 2012

They fight for liberty

By ROBERT MOORE, Community Columnist
Commonwealth Journal

Somerset —  

It is one of the times of the year when we take time to contemplate the blessings of life in the United States of America. July 4th is the day we set aside to honor the signing of that document that began us on the road to rebellion and independence from Great Britain which was the preeminent power in the world in that day.
It is reckoned that at any given time prior to victory in our war of revolution there was never more than a third of the population dead set on taking on the might of Great Britain. Most were simply desirous of a little tweaking in the relationship and many were outright loyalists.
Well, we all know who won, against all odds, by simply outlasting the British until they tired of trying to keep supply lines open across the pond. It was an incredible amount of resolve on the part of not too many rebels to persevere and not a little assurance they would surely hang if they lost.
The freedoms enumerated in our foundational document have been a noble experiment unknown to the world prior to this. It was just off the wall to think that the common people would have enough wisdom to govern a nation and, to be sure, sometimes we still think that. In truth, no one was really sure exactly what they had voted for and disagreements began to surface almost immediately and have continued to this day. Much to the consternation of Jefferson and Madison the Federalists under Alexander Hamilton enacted the Alien and Sedition Act which, among other things, placed restrictions on what we now consider a given, our Freedom of Speech. This act was designed to keep down the criticisms of the governmental power with everyone in fear of the damage to the fledgling nation. The opposition was certain it went too far. Surely, if it were enacted today it would be found lacking but we see similar actions even today. Most of the act was allowed to die a quiet death since the precedent establishing judicial review had not been decided yet.
As a nation we have been in a unique place in history by being protected by oceans on both sides and friends to the North and South. But there have been a few attempts at a direct attack on the mainland and all of them have been repulsed. But the attacks against our freedoms do not come so much from outside as it does from inside. We have our brave men and women in uniform who have given their lives to further the aims of the United States but they are by no means the only ones who have fought on behalf of their country.
There are those who fought the long fight to bring the freedoms we enjoy to all people regardless of creed, color or race. Some lost their lives in the fight, some carry scars even now from those battles for freedom. During World War II we embraced one of the provisions of the defunct Alien and Sedition Act by imprisoning the Japanese-Americans without due process or recourse through the courts but there were those who knew the wrongness of that and defied persecution to bring freedom.
It has always been the danger from within that is our greatest enemy. People who are not aware that a simple denial of liberty can lead to a greater one may see no fault in compelling behavior they perceive as right but often that coercion denies a person the right to assemble, freedom of movement, freedom to be secure from unreasonable search and seizure and the freedom to speak out against our government if we perceive it to be acting wrongly.
After 9/11 our country passed some laws that allow unusual amounts of surveillance of electronic and other types of media. The ability to peer into vast amounts of data and extract a significant fact reaches lengths we can only imagine and yet legislators from both parties approved it and it is ongoing. It is giving us valuable insight into threats but at what cost? There are those who are engaged in the ongoing battle to protect those freedoms that define our nation for without them who or what are we?
On the 4th we will set off great fireworks as Washington envisioned and we will celebrate the rockets red glare and bombs bursting in air and that is as it should be. A great nation needs to remember the foundational circumstances that gave birth to our country that we love. We will celebrate the men and women who serve in our armed forces so that we can live the kind of life here that will never know the horror they see. But there are others that are often unsung and they are the ones that fought in streets with demonstrations and in courts with lawsuits to reclaim or ensure the blessings of liberty.
This year take an expansive view of who fights for our country and think not only of the revolutionaries or our armed forces but also of someone who fights on the home front in a different way. It is recounted that Benjamin Franklin upon exiting the session that drew up the Constitution was asked by a woman what he and his cohorts had given them. His reply was, “a republic, Madam, if you can keep it.” Never forget that it all began with citizens talking among themselves about ideas that had only been know heretofore in books of philosophy. Let that be a cause for celebration in your life and a renewal of dedication to the notion that all men are created equal. And don't leave out the women. They have fought as hard as the men. And remember that we can only lose it from within.
My take on this July 4th celebration. The 236th of our history. Tell me what you think.