When talking to or about our veterans, the first thing to say is always ‘Thank you.’
But let’s not dwell on sentimentalities. The fact is: Soldier, you’re not done.
The good news is that nobody is trying to kill you anymore, unless perhaps you are black and live in Chicago, and then your life is always at risk. But for most of you, you can finally sleep easy at night.
The bad news is that the war for our freedoms, your freedoms, has just changed venues. Instead of trying to kill you, the attempt now is to just steal your freedoms, one at a time, bit by bit, so that the country you thought you were defending no longer exists.
I am sure you get misty-eyed, as I do and millions of others here do, when we hear those songs about the land of the free and the home of the brave, or about how God shed His grace on thee, America.
But that America of song and lore is fast fading from view. You are in love with an ideal, a dream, of something which day by day is vanishing from history.
Freedom is essentially synonymous with opportunity, as in “land of opportunity.” The American Dream is related to this, every generation being able to surpass the previous generation by whatever standard you might want to use. Freedom is also being able to speak openly and to live your life within the dictates of your conscience.
You risked your life to defend these and other freedoms, but these are slowly disappearing.
You see, when you are free to pursue your dreams, the possibility of unique outcomes in our lives is limitless. Depending on your ability, efforts, areas of focus, and seemingly chance circumstances, there is no telling how far you can go.
Our country has (had) always been a strongly Christian one. Many Christians today may question the nature of that Christianity, whether it was indeed a true relationship with Jesus Christ or just living by Christian principles. But those Christian principles, however derived, promoted a basic decency and respect for life and others, a code of honesty, self-reliance, and compassion. Those principles united citizens with their neighbors to ensure that those who needed and wanted help got it.
But our country, at least those in leadership, has thrown off those Christian roots. Damn morals were too restricting. Honesty was traded for expediency, honor for power, long-term value for short-term advantage, principles for pleasure, truth for preference, and God for government.
Loving your neighbor was traded for tolerating your neighbor, which is just another way of saying ignoring your neighbor. And where equality used to mean that every life is equally valuable, it has come to mean that everybody should have equal lives. While that may seem impossible in reality, it is seen as being preferable for everybody to have less if it means that everybody has more of the same things.
That rejection of Christian principles, of course, is not limited to those in leadership, but those in leadership were responsible for seeing that those Christian principles were not to be any part of the education of succeeding generations or any part of our public life, so that those succeeding generations grew up with a different vision of what it means to be an American.
Freedom, at least as it was understood when our country was founded, was predicated on a belief in God, the Christian God. That belief meant that people lived their lives believing that they were accountable to God for how they lived their lives. They believed there were rules in how this life should be lived, including loving your neighbor, honesty, integrity, hard work, and faithfulness. They also believed in God’s providence, protection, and help.
But when God is removed from (public) life, this creates a huge vacuum, a huge sense of uncertainty, like suddenly finding yourself speeding down a hill with no seat belt, no doors on your car, and no brakes. Where individuals used to believe in God for their help and protection, absent God, the people have to unite in ways that fundamentally change our understanding of freedom.
The government now becomes our benefactor, our protector, our enabler, our teacher, our provider.
When our Founders first began enumerating some of our freedoms, they certainly weren’t trying to name them all, but they wanted to be sure that everybody was clear on the main ones. They all involved things that you could do or that the government couldn’t do to you.
Now the government (Perhaps we should now capitalize it, Government, like we capitalize the word God.) increasingly is defining rights as things that people are entitled to just for being here (and voting).
The latest right to be so designated is the right to affordable health care. And, of course, the only way to provide affordable health care to everybody is to take money from everybody else to pay for it.
And the primary reason for the collapse of our economy in 2008 can be traced back to the newly recognized right to owning a house, which required banks and lending institutions to loosen lending requirements to enable as many people as possible to realize this dream.
The government, in the absence of a personal God guiding, caring, providing, and holding people accountable, expands and keeps expanding to control more and more of our lives to provide for more and more of our needs, consuming more and more of our resources, so that we become more and more dependent on it for our very lives.
You veterans fought to save our country from foreign enemies who in some way endangered our freedom from afar or to help other countries secure more freedom for themselves. But your work isn’t done. Losing freedom one regulation at a time, one tax at a time, or one law at a time is losing freedom nevertheless. It’s just harder to see and harder for each generation to know how far we have changed. But then that’s what vigilance is all about, and you should know about that.
Photo Credit: Standard Compliant