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Jul 1 / Michael Wright

Freedom: an idea worth spreading

They didn’t hold TED conferences in the 18th century, though they were no strangers to discussing and spreading great ideas. 237 years ago this week, in Philadelphia, they were tossing around a very big idea. A powder keg of an idea. And on July 4, 1776, they put it on a piece of paper and submitted it to a “candid world,” and America was born.

The idea in our Declaration of Independence was both simple and profound: create an independent nation based on the notion of freedom.

This doesn’t sound so big today; we’ve grown so accustomed to it. But it had never been done before — in the history of the world.  It was entirely new territory, and it was very, very dangerous. Because beyond the usual headaches of founding a nation, this also required winning a war against the most powerful country on Earth.

This Thursday we will celebrate America’s independence. Here’s an idea: Let’s read the Declaration of Independence again. All the way through. It can feel tedious when you get to the long list of “abuses and usurpations,” but hang in there. The last line reads: “And for the support of this Declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes and our sacred Honor.” This may sound quaint, because we don’t talk like that anymore. But make no mistake — these guys weren’t just scratching their names on a document; they were putting their lives on the line.

It’s not as fashionable these days to appreciate the founding of our country, or the men behind it. Turns out they all had flaws, and this seems to get the lion’s share of the attention. It’s too bad. Because through their brilliance and their courage, they bequeathed to us a great gift. One that keeps on giving, provided we don’t squander it.

I hope we think about that as we enjoy the sunshine and barbecue this Thursday. I hope we discuss it, like the founding fathers did, but without the threat of invasion or arrest. This freedom we share is both a blessing and a responsibility. It deserves our appreciation, and our vigilance.

8 Comments

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  1. Rolaine Dang / Jul 2 2013

    Great post and good suggestion to (re)read the the Declaration of Independence. I do agree that many including me especially have tendencies to enjoy the outcome (freedom) but not simmer in the thoughts of the great sacrifice that the founding fathers went through. I can’t help think of the contrast between our forefathers’ great passion and how they were willing to sacrifice their life with the greater mass of today’s society in the state of being lukewarm and passive on their stance on everything.

    This reminds me of what Peter Kreeft said about the danger of being lukewarm rather than being hot or cold. When either hot or cold, we are at least passionate about something whether we are passionately for it or absolutely against something. Lukewarm on the other hand is omission, failure to do something.

    Here’s a piece from his book “Back to Virtue: Traditional Moral Wisdom for Modern Moral Confusion”..

    “To commit evil is at least to be playing the game, the only game in town, the game God is playing, though it is to play for the wrong side. You can switch sides more easily than you can switch games… The great enemy of morality today is not immorality but amorality. Sloth simply does not play God’s game, either with him or against him. It sits on the sidelines bored while life and death are at stake”.

    Thanks for initiating another thought provoking discussion. Happy 4th!

    • Michael Wright / Jul 2 2013

      Thanks, Rolaine, for your good thoughts. I totally agree that being in the arena always beats watching from the sidelines. Happy 4th to you, too!

    • Christa / Jul 5 2013

      It sits on the sidelines bored while life and death are at stake

      I will be thinking about this one. Interesting line. Thanks Ro

      • Rolaine / Aug 26 2013

        @Christa – ;) Peter Kreeft is probably my modern time rockstar philosopher. He’s covered a lot of heavy topics and is able to explain things in laymen terms.

  2. Geoff Nathan / Jul 2 2013

    Thanks, Michael, for reminding us why we celebrate this Thursday.

    And it’s a continuous battle, with our current (and previous) administrations seizing our private correspondence without the necessity of showing probable cause, then secretly rummaging around in it without accountability except before a secret, virtually rubber-stamp court.

    • Michael Wright / Jul 2 2013

      You are welcome, Geoff. For all its “sins” we still live in a great country, but we have to work to keep it that way.

  3. Shari Guilfoile / Jul 2 2013

    Great thoughts Michael — thanks for taking to the time to write them and share them. I will do as you suggest and read it! Happy Independence Day!

    • Michael Wright / Jul 2 2013

      Great to hear from you, Shari. I think you will enjoy it, and Happy Independence Day to you, too.

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