FREEDOM IS NOT FREE
Memorial Day 2015
Memorial Day is a day of reflection and gratitude. It is a day for us to reflect on Freedom, and to express gratitude for those who paid the ultimate price to secure it for our posterity and us.
Freedom has been prized as our most fundamental right since man’s first intellectual awareness of it. All other rights and actions derive from it. Without freedom, there is nothing else. Even mere existence is tenuous without the freedom to secure and defend it.
Prior to the intellectual understanding of freedom and the rights of man, freedom in our actions was exercised as simply instinctive behavior, as with all animals. Animals roam freely because nature allows them to – there is no awareness of being free. Whereas the freedom of an animal may simply be dependent upon another animal’s freedom to kill it for food, human freedom takes on many other characteristics.
As an intellectual object, we recognize that freedom is given by God (or as a natural right, if one prefers), but may be taken away by man. Freedom is prey for man’s worst ambitions:
Personal and national power
Land and resources
Religious or political beliefs
Limits on individuals for the greater good of the whole
Our physical response to freedom is simply to exercise it, subject to the limits of our physical environment. We preserve our physical freedom by being faster, stronger, or more intelligent.
Our intellectual response to freedom is to define it, understand it, explain it and put in place mechanisms to preserve it. We define freedom as the power or right to act, speak or think as we desire without limitation or restraint. We understand freedom is a primordial characteristic of our existence –God given, not granted by man. We can explain freedom in the simplest of terms. To extend the famous observation by Descartes, “I think, therefore I am,” we may further observe, “I am, therefore I am free.”
Freedom is an essential characteristic of existence.
“Eternal vigilance is the price of liberty.”
– Thomas Jefferson
Though freedom is guaranteed in theory, like life itself, it may be threatened by the ambitions of others. Freedom must be preserved; it is not free.
People come together into groups, communities, and ultimately, in societies for the primary purpose of protecting freedom. Charters such as constitutions are adopted to define the relationships between one and another, among groups, and for the society as a whole. Our own constitution provides for individual freedoms, including a Bill of Rights. In addition, our system provides for laws to balance the rights of one person or group in relation to others. Lastly, we empower our governing bodies to address the balance of freedom between us and other nation-states by various means:
Discourse and negotiation: Treaties
Appeal to mutual economic benefit: Trade agreements
Joining with others for common good: Alliances
Posturing for strength: Military capabilities
Use of Force: War, either or pre-emptive or retaliatory
As noted by Jefferson and many others, freedom is always but one generation away from being lost. It is the responsibility of each generation to pass the torch of freedom to the next. It is for this reason we work through peaceful processes to ensure it, but the processes don’t always work. The world, including our own country, has been at war in one place or time after another for most of human existence.
Make no mistake, war is ugly; it is a devastating scar on the face of humanity. But when a nation’s people, values or even its very existence are threatened, war may be the only alternative. To be unprepared to fight for freedom, is to surrender it.
"No bastard ever won a war by dying for his country. He won it by making the other poor dumb bastard die for his country."
- George S. Patton
Peaceful methods of protecting freedom have too often either failed, or given way to aggression and ruthlessness of despots leading to the ultimate necessity – to preserve freedom by fighting for it. To engage in war.
Such has been the condition of mankind through the ages, with the past two centuries of this country no different. It is a powerful reminder to our desire for peace to consider the wars that we have fought and the lives lost or forever altered. The reasons and motivation for the wars fought have not always been clear, but we remain a free people today, at least in part, by the lives lost in all of them. Many died so that we might live free.
A Timeline of American Wars
The following is a summary of major American wars, along with the lives lost and wounded, including loss of limbs and other catastrophic injuries.
Name: American Revolution
Number Serving: 250,000*
Commander-in-Chief: George Washington**
* Estimated from 250-300,000
** Nine presidents during the Revolution
Name: War of 1812
Number Serving: 286,730
President: James Madison
Name: Mexican War
Number Serving: 78,718
President: James Polk
Name: Civil War
Number Serving: 2,213,363
President: Abraham Lincoln
*Recent estimates push this to 750,000 or more
Name: World War I
Number Serving: 4,734,991
President: Woodrow Wilson
Name: World War II
Number Serving: 16,112,566
President: Franklin Roosevelt/Harry Truman
Name: Korean War
Number Serving: 5,720,000
President: Harry Truman
Name: Vietnam War
Number Serving: 8,744,000
President: Lyndon Johnson/Richard Nixon*
*Military advisors sent in under John Kennedy
Name: Persian Gulf Wars
Number Serving: 2,225,000*
President: George HW Bush/William Clinton**
* 694,550 in combat theater
** Renewed under Bill Clinton in 1999, Gulf War II
Name: Global War on Terror (Iraq and Afghanistan)
Period: 2001 - Ongoing
Number Serving: 1,468,364
President: George W Bush/Barack Obama
The Total Human Cost of War – Since 1776
Total Served: 65,625,222
Died: 1,268,472 (About the population of Dallas, Texas)
Is freedom worth this terrible cost? These immortal words answer the question best:
THESE are the times that try men's souls. The summer soldier and the sunshine patriot will, in this crisis, shrink from the service of their country; but he that stands by it now, deserves the love and thanks of man and woman. Tyranny, like hell, is not easily conquered; yet we have this consolation with us, that the harder the conflict, the more glorious the triumph. What we obtain too cheap, we esteem too lightly: it is dearness only that gives every thing its value. Heaven knows how to put a proper price upon its goods; and it would be strange indeed if so celestial an article as FREEDOM should not be highly rated.
– Thomas Paine
Memorial Day is Not Veterans Day
Individually and as a nation, we owe all veterans our solemn thanks and appreciation; past, present and future; combat and non-combat service … all gave time out of their lives and risked it unselfishly.
Memorial Day gives a special recognition to those who paid the ultimate price and sacrificed their lives for others to live free. We must never forget them.
““We will always remember. We will always be proud. We will always be prepared, so we may always be free.”
— Ronald Reagan