Posted by: theoptimisticconservative | July 4, 2010

Choose Life: July 4, 2010

As I flit from task to task preparing for relatives to arrive this week, it’s hard to focus much on the Fourth of July and the history of our country’s declaration of independence.  But in this of all times, it’s essential to do so.  America is at a crossroads as never before, rent not across state lines or over a single overwhelming issue, but right through our families and workplaces, our houses of worship and our communities.  Our division is over the most fundamental things:  what men are before God, what we are before the state, and how we shall then live.

An epochal decision is looming in our hearts.  I’m not speaking of “revolution” here, but of which future we choose, the blessing or the curse.  Those familiar with the Law of Moses will recognize the construct here, set forth in Deuteronomy 11:26-28 (NIV):

See, I am setting before you today a blessing and a curse – the blessing if you obey the commands of the LORD your God that I am giving you today; the curse if you disobey the commands of the LORD your God and turn from the way that I command you today by following other gods, which you have not known.

Whether you believe in this passage or not, it outlines a stark truth most Americans would agree with, which is that the choices we make, what we subject and commit ourselves to, and how we live set the courses of our lives, both individually and corporately.

There is a choice before us today, one that no people has ever made successfully in favor of the blessing.  All other peoples have chosen the curse.  They have chosen to cling not to guns and religion, but to “benefits” distributed by the state, and a sense of entitlement by which they make demands on their fellow men.  Using government to raid the savings of the provident is as old as using government to get rich and gain sinecures at the expense of the productive poor and middle-class.

The choice we have today is between facing up to what we and our government have become, and saying “no more,” or continuing on the path we are on.  There are days when the obstacles seem insurmountable.  But on those days, we should remember this lesson from America’s founding:  that proclaiming liberty throughout the land, and to all the inhabitants thereof, has never been easy.

In fact, in 1776, it was terribly hard.  As this marvelous speech – given often by Rush Limbaugh’s father – outlines, the signers of the Declaration of Independence suffered tremendous losses to win liberty for us.  A number lost wives and children; more lost all their property; some were imprisoned under dreadful conditions, others died in mid-life – and all these things happened to them because they signed the Declaration.

Human nature and our historic tendencies conspire against proclaiming liberty and living it.  Our Founders could only have done what they did because they believed that the outcome they sought was worth the incredible difficulty of procuring it.  We forget today that they took a risk on a project no one had attempted before.  There was no example or analogy to measure their effort against; when they themselves tried to, they referred to Moses leading the Israelites out of Egypt.

I mean more here than that “freedom isn’t free.”  Freedom is more than not free, it’s not normal.  It’s the condition humans thrive in best, but are least likely to automatically prefer as life presents its endless series of small choices to us.  Preferring freedom requires keeping a steady strain on the lines and adjusting course alertly.  There can be no sleeping on watch in the preservation of freedom.  Events and tendencies are always acting against it.

Yet against all odds, our Founders achieved it.  Are we capable of acting with the clarity and belief that they did?  I believe they didn’t know the answer to that themselves until they made the choice.  Many of us today are in mid-life, and we have what the Founders had:  lives, fortunes, and sacred honor.  We know – we know – what it would mean to commit them to a cause.  We know what so many of the Founders lost; we know it viscerally and apprehensively.

But we have before us today a blessing and a curse.  We have an advantage the Founders didn’t have:  they knew the curse they wanted to avoid, but we know the blessing too.  Will we sell our birthright for a little more ease and enjoyment?

Never has a people made a choice with as much knowledge of what lies down each path.  The risk here is not that preserving liberty won’t be worth it to us.  We know what the blessing is.  Here is Deuteronomy again (30:19):

This day I call heaven and earth as witnesses against you that I have set before you life and death, blessings and curses. Now choose life, so that you and your children may live.

Cross-posted at Hot Air.


Responses

  1. On this quiet day, far from any crossroads and not at all unusually perilous, I thank you for your service to our country.

    • fuster,

      Your thanking J.E. for her service and, by extension to all those who have served, does you credit.

      As for, “far from any crossroads and not at all unusually perilous”

      On Dec 6th, 1941 the vast majority shared that view as well. Hindsight allows us to realize how close the crossroads actually were and how perilous reality was about to become.

      Sometimes, shortly before a storm the skies are remarkably clear.

      The ‘signs’ of a “gathering storm” are upon the horizon for anyone willing to see and only ‘magical thinking’ allows one to imagine that those signs are inconsequential happenstance.

      Enjoy your repose while it lasts but consider this; while those who prepare now may, if circumstance be unkind, fare no better than the unprepared… the unprepared rely solely upon luck and, luck is most frequently the residue of design, when the happenstance of opportunity meets the ‘good fortune’ of preparedness.

  2. Have started reading the new biography of Dietrich Bonhoeffer by Eric Metaxas, “Bonhoeffer Pastor, Martyr, Prophet, Spy A Righteous Gentile Vs. The Third Reich”. A lot has happened since 1776 and Americans have been a positive part of many human activities. The book’s a great read written by an interesting American author.

  3. I tend to doubt that assertion about Dec 6, Geoffrey.

    Old Man Fuster enlisted long before that date and instructed me that the whole of the country knew that the war was coming.

  4. “On Dec 6th, 1941 the vast majority shared that view as well. Hindsight allows us to realize how close the crossroads actually were and how perilous reality was about to become.”

    Geoffrey, that statement is wildly inaccurate. The vast majority of Americans knew that war was close.

    • Fuster,

      Two points; yes many Americans did know that war was coming and not only old man fuster but old man Britain. A 18, my dad enlisted a year before the conflict started; the argument he used to obtain permission from my very reluctant grandfather was to remind him of WWI and how little training the GI’s received before shipping off to Europe and, then asking my grandfather if he would disagree that more extensive training might well ensure my Dad’s survival in war…

      However, war with Germany was my dad’s focus, everyone knew that Hitler would eventually force us into the fight. Very few Americans entertained the notion that the Japanese would launch a sneak attack upon us. And that is why I chose the Dec 6, date.

      The second and more important point I’d make is that objecting to a specific example of thinking that we are “far from any crossroads and not at all unusually perilous” doesn’t discount the larger point, that oftentimes we are simply blinding ourselves to what will be historically obvious with the 20/20 vision of hindsight.

      But it is an excellent way to avoid addressing the larger point.

  5. Geoffrey, I must again inform you that it was quite clear that we would be at war with Japan.
    Secretary Hull, prior to conducting talks both day and night with official and semi-official Japanese representatives agreed with the president that the chances of avoiding war with Japan were approximately “zero”.
    I commend to you Hull’s Memoirs (vol II)

    For a general perspective of American attitude toward the Japanese, you would do well to learn of our ties to China and to recall that the conduct of the Japanese in that war, from the attack on the USS Panay in 37 and in Nanking and on, was well-publicized and roundly condemned here.

    Our refusal to sell metal and petroleum to Japan, our military and financial aid to the Chinese…..

    These weren’t secret actions, Geoffrey, are were well-reported on radio and in print.

  6. Yes, knowledgeable people like Hull and Roosevelt knew war was coming but the general public and even the military was far more blase about the potential threat Japan posed. Demonstrated by how unprepared the Navy’s readiness was at Pearl Harbor and that despite ongoing naval conflict with Germany’s uboats in the Atlantic… Plus the profound shock to public sensibilities that the sudden onslaught of war brought.

    It’s a bit presumptuous of you fuster to falsely assume my ignorance of the Rape of Nanking, American assistance efforts to China and the material embargo the US imposed upon Japan prior to Pearl Harbor, simply because of a difference of opinion between us as to how mentally prepared for war were the American public.

    No, the actions to which you refer weren’t secret but they were ignored by most of the public, just as you are ignoring J.E.’s assertions when you state, “far from any crossroads and not at all unusually perilous”…

    So once again, I’ll caution you as to the larger point;

    The ‘signs’ of a “gathering storm” are upon the horizon for anyone willing to see and only ‘magical thinking’ allows one to imagine that those signs are inconsequential happenstance.

    Enjoy your repose while it lasts but consider this; while those who prepare now may, if circumstance be unkind, fare no better than the unprepared… the unprepared rely solely upon luck and, luck is most frequently the residue of design, when the happenstance of opportunity meets the ‘good fortune’ of preparedness.

    Sometimes we drink from the water life leads us to fuster and sometimes we don’t but to paraphrase Albert Camus; “Our lives are the sum of all our choices”

  7. A noble debate between GB and fuster here. A note for GB: although I don’t think it was quite as obvious to “everyone” as fuster suggests that we were about to go to war in December 1941, I think I would have argued this one a bit differently. There WERE signs in late 1941 that we’d be unable to stay out of the enlarging fight. But the error of our shipmate fuster is in implying that there are no such signs in 2010: that all’s quiet on every front, and nothing bad could happen.

    In terms of a WWII analogy, I wouldn’t locate us in December 1941 but in 1936 or so. That said, the timeline from “1936” to “1941” is likely to be considerably shortened in the development of the present Gathering Storm (one-a them historical references for y’all).


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