October 5th, 2009

Surrendering Liberty


photo credit: cricechen

Difficult circumstances have many results, one of which being that a person’s true character is likely to be exposed throughout the process. In times of trial, the way a person acts or reacts is a raw indication of what their true desires are. Applied in the political realm, this implies that the solutions a person supports as remedies for perceived problems demonstrates where their heart is.

In the Book of Mormon, the fledgling Jaredite nation came to a crossroads with the impeding death of their patriarchal leaders. The people were consulted as to their final wish; their request was an establishment of monarchy in their new nation. Despite a warning to the contrary, they got their wish. The rest of their history details the bloody consequences of that pivotal choice.

Few societies throughout the world’s history have chosen liberty when afforded the option to do so. To be sure, many have chosen freedom: freedom from the shackles of their current oppressive masters; freedom from the burdensome taxes they were forced to pay; freedom from the restraints felt in their individual lives. But few have chosen liberty, the political implications of which are far more preparatory and broadly applied than most understand.

Too many have fought for freedom only to further enslave themselves within a new system of government or under a newly elected leader. Numerous revolutions and elections throughout history have simply swapped one group of tyrants for another, demonstrating that a narrow definition of and support for freedom is deceptively transitory.

Liberty, as George Bernard Shaw once said, means responsibility. “That is why most men dread it,” he opined. The Jaredite’s invitation for kingly rule over them was indicative of their unwillingness to self-govern—a surrender of liberty, in effect. A similar desire is seen in countless homes across the country today, as people look to Washington for a solution to their problems. A person who has lost his job, has poor health care, or dislikes his quality of education will likely look to a single man—the President—for assistance. By extension, the few individuals working with him in the federal government are also solicited for fixing personal and local problems.

Put simply, the desire for a king does not require a monarchy. It is equally (if not more deviously) manifested in the way people clamor for change, stimuli, and subsidies from one or more people in charge of whatever form of government may exist. This desire is the antithesis of liberty, for liberty requires solving one’s own problems. It exists only when there is a general repudiation of outsourcing one’s difficulties to another person or group.

The lack of concern most people feel for liberty (to say nothing of their general ignorance regarding its meaning and implications) is illustrated well in the third installment of the recent Star Wars series, when the fictional character Padmé Amidala observed the way in which her colleagues clamored for the so-called “safety” and “security” offered by the man who hijacked the Republic and transformed it into an Empire. As the masses cheered, Padmé remarked: “So this is how liberty dies… with thunderous applause.”

Though the evidence all around us shows a similar pattern in our own country, we must resist the tide that is taking us in the direction of centralized tyranny. Samuel Adams warned us in this way:

The liberties of our country, the freedom of our civil constitution, are worth defending at all hazards; and it is our duty to defend them against all attacks. We have received them as a fair inheritance from our worthy ancestors; they purchased them for us with toil and danger and at the expense of treasure and blood, and transmitted them to us with care and diligence. It will bring an everlasting mark of infamy on the present generation, enlightened as it is, if we should suffer them to be wrested from us by violence without a struggle, or be cheated out of them by the artifices of false and designing men.

Too many Americans today surrender their birthright—liberty—for a mess of putrescent, political pottage: bondage. Liberty is hard work which cannot be delegated to another. It is rarely easy, and (sadly) seldom popular. It causes controversy and division, and is often (and erroneously) considered harsh, unjust, and inconsiderate. It does not easily appeal to base emotions, and requires an informed and intelligent people to carry its banner forward.

The American experiment was, at its outset, a firm rejection of servile dependence. The Founders asserted themselves and their countrymen as sovereign, free men. That their posterity has largely surrendered this great gift is a testament not only to our current, pathetic state, but also to our ingratitude for such a priceless treasure—one that will not easily be recovered.

11 Responses to “Surrendering Liberty”

  1. Connor
    October 5, 2009 at 9:50 am #

    This morning I stumbled upon this quote by J. Reuben Clark which has direct (and powerful) application to this subject:

    Eminent men and able men of great experience and wisdom are blaming the people for looking more and more to the Federal Government to meet their wants and to exercise governmental control over them, and this to the destruction of local self government, the rights of the States, and the rights of the people, all which are the basic factors of our social, economic, and constitutional life.

    Might I humbly question whether the people are primarily to blame for this?

    Nearly two thousand years ago, on the shores of the Sea of Galilee, the Master miraculously fed 5,000 people. They immediately wished to make Him king. One who could feed them without their working for it, ought to be made their sovereign. This would solve for them the all important problem of earthly existence. Perceiving their thoughts and to avoid being dragged forth as the seeming head of a rebellion, the Master dismissed them and Himself fled their presence, going “up into a mountain apart to pray.” That night He crossed over to the other side of the sea , and the multitude learning of it, took ship and also crossed over, and came to Him again. They gathered about Him, deceitfully worshipping, declaring: “Of a truth thou art the Son of God.” But He discerning their thought and purpose, reproved them saying: “Ye seek me, not because ye saw the miracles, but because ye did eat of the loaves and were filled.”

    He then preached the great sermon on the bread of life, and the sacred record declares: “From that time many of his disciples went back and walked no more with him.”

    He was useless to them, except as the gratuitous provider of their bread and meat.

    So do multitudes.

    If our Congressmen would stop the march of the people to Washington for their government and their substance, they should cease distributing the loaves and fishes from the steps of the Treasury Building across the road from the White House. You Congressmen have the absolute power to stop it; have you the courage? If it is not done, you, not the people, must take on the censure.

    There is one principle as old as human government, indeed as old as human relations: He who holds the purse strings, rules the house, the nation, the world.

    If Congressmen wish to restore local self-government, and the rights of the States and of the people, let them send back to the States, to the local communities, to the Churches, and to the children of indigent parents, where it belongs, the duty of caring for their own sick and decrepit and aged, their own unfortunate and underprivileged. Then the march on Washington will cease and the countermarch back home will be a Marathon.

    I am not forgetting that this may cost a good many Congressmen considerable inconvenience and more abuse, it may cost some of their them official lives. But they are planning and legislating for the conduct of a war which will cost hundreds of thousands of the actual lives of our best manhood; might they not make an infinitely less sacrifice of their own official lives for the common good and for our free institutions? And I tell you, our free institutions are far more threatened by our domestic usurpations than by the outcome of this war. If you Congressmen would save this nation and its free institutions, cease to appropriate the national funds to meet local wants and problems of welfare. (J. Rueben Clark, via Quoty)

  2. David
    October 5, 2009 at 11:42 am #

    That’s a great addition to the post.

  3. Krista
    October 5, 2009 at 11:50 am #

    THANK YOU for including Star Wars!!! :) Every time I watch that movie, the horrifying sensation that we’re going through the same thing – two seemly opposing sides being played off each other by an “unseen” master, to his own usurping ends – just gnaws at me. (But I have to keep thinking of it that way in order to stay awake, LOL… :) )

    And what a great quote from J. Rueben Clark – AWESOME. I continue to hope that our leaders will make the sacrifices themselves before sacrificing *our* rights & liberties.

    Private individuals are standing up for principles in circumstances of great personal sacrifice – I’ve seen people without health insurance fight the government plan for it in defense of liberty and our rights to life. For my own family, we’re in a lower income bracket, but we’re still fighting increased taxation on higher brackets in defense of economic liberty and property rights. But I have yet to see, say, Tim Geithner make a personal sacrifice in defense of our liberty.

  4. Connor
    October 5, 2009 at 11:52 am #

    Every time I watch that movie, the horrifying sensation that we’re going through the same thing – two seemly opposing sides being played off each other by an “unseen” master, to his own usurping ends – just gnaws at me.

    Then you’ll love this excellent summary of the series.

  5. Neil
    October 5, 2009 at 6:44 pm #

    Like J. Rueben Clark said, once the Constitution and liberty is lost it can only be reinstituted by the shedding of blood. Its sad to say but I feel he’s right. I wish there were more Apostles like J. Rueben Clark today, in which showed the connection between good Government and Gods plan.

  6. Greg
    October 5, 2009 at 11:31 pm #

    Since you mentioned what happened to the Jaredite nation, for reference see the Gadianton Robbers.

    Also, King Jacob created a kingdom (3 Nephi 7:12) shortly before the earthquake in 3 Nephi. Later, the people were told that the inhabitants of the city of Jacobugath were burned by fire because they destroyed the peace of the people and the government of the land (3 Nephi 9:9).

    Very sobering thoughts as our nation becomes increasingly fascist.

  7. Sean
    October 6, 2009 at 9:29 am #

    Excellent post, Connor. I like the pairing of liberty with responsibility. The author and psychologist Viktor Frankl suggested that America have a “Statue of Responsibility” to pair with our Statue of LIberty – to remind the people that the two go hand in hand.

    And I agree with others above – President Clarke’s quote adds another dimension to the message. It is true that we as people have a great responsibility to live with integrity and responsibility in our own lives. But we also have a responsibility to put people of integrity in public office: people who know that the responsibility of caring for others is ours and not Washington’s.

  8. Carborendum
    October 6, 2009 at 9:42 am #

    Hi everyone. I’ve finally got internet access again.

    Great post, Connor.

    When one is in dire circumstances, we don’t feel free. So what do we have to lose by choosing a king? We’re certainly not going to lose our freedom. We don’t even know what it is. At least it feels that way.

    Without going into details, when I was young, I chose a path that would greatly curtail my freedom. The subconscious truth was that I wanted to be told what to do so I didn’t have to make so many decisions. The biggest issue was fear of failure. If I never chose, I never failed. This was at odds with a faith that told me that I was free to CHOOSE everything I do.

    The most basic human right is the freedom to fail. I had heard this. But it never made sense to me until I remembered some colossal failures of my own. Then I had to pick up the pieces and move on. At this point one must either die (sometimes literally) survive, or thrive. I thrived. Once I’d done that, I truly knew what it was like to be free. I never wanted someone else controlling my life. I grew up.

    The primary (some say the only) motivation to move toward socialism/communism is fear of failure. They want a security blanket in case they can’t make it on their own. They’re still children.

    I’d have to add that the “bleeding heart” crowd has a different motivation—but I digress.

    So what causes a person to die, survive, or thrive?
    Despair, complacency, or faith respectively.

    When one has faith in something of worth, one receives strength to do more and be more. The more powerful the faith and the more worthy the object of faith, the more one is able to thrive and the more dire the trial one is able to overcome.

    Those countries in history which chose freedom over tyranny had tremendous faith in the face of adversity. Consider the battle of Thermopylae. How they thrived in the face of adversity. Almost all of 1000+ men died. But, oh how they are remembered even millennia later. How easily other kings simply bowed to tyranny rather than fight for freedom.

    It was through this crucible that the Greek Empire emerged as a world power.

    What lessons we could learn from primitives sometimes.

  9. rachel
    October 6, 2009 at 9:50 pm #

    Carb, I think what you explained goes back further than the Greek Empire. This whole issue began before we all came here with the “war in heaven.” What would have made those who followed Satan choose him? Don’t you think in many cases it was fear of failure? Perhaps they wanted the assurance that they would make it back, and didn’t want to take the risk of depending on their own choices. It would be easier to just turn it over to someone else and be sure things would work out. As it happened, they were cast out with their leader, who was in open rebellion, desiring the Father’s glory.

    Satan is still trying to implement his plan. It’s a plan of compulsion and the antithesis of liberty–we give up our agency, he dictates (with the help of his earthly pawns) our choices, we are “taken care of,” and God is subverted in the process.

    President Benson said, “As important as are all other principles of the gospel, it was the freedom issue which determined whether you received a body. To have been on the wrong side of the freedom issue during the war in heaven meant eternal damnation. How then can Latter-day Saints expect to be on the wrong side in this life and escape the eternal consequences? The war in heaven is raging on earth today. The issues are the same: ‘Shall men be compelled to do what others claim is for their best welfare’ or will they heed the counsel of the prophet and preserve their freedom?” (Ezra Taft Benson, Conference Report, April 1965.)

  10. Carborendum
    October 7, 2009 at 10:09 am #

    Rachel,

    While your point is true (and BTW a great quote from Benson) my point was not about how far back the issue goes. I brought up the Greeks because it shows

    1) Just how much courageous defenders of freedom can accomplish against overwhelming odds.
    2) How inspiring it is to hear such stories.

    Your comment about the war in heaven is thought provoking. But the story is not as “inspiring” as the story of the Greeks’ rise to power because the war in heaven had the good guys in the majority. And it was no contest because God was right there–unhidden.

    Apart from that, good post.

  11. Mike
    October 16, 2009 at 3:28 pm #

    Those who would trade liberty for security deserve neither and will lose both.

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