Recently, I have seen many people, on both sides of the aisle, talking about how there is an apparent need to reassess the validity of past evils. Many have asked why, in 2017, we have to argue the evils of Nazism and the scourge of any racial superiority rhetoric? Why must we, in classrooms nonetheless, argue whether the evils of communism and socialism were a result of proposed philosophical thought or a result of bad leaders?
After witnessing the same result of these clearly destructive forms of government and economic systems, it seems apparent that we have not learned valuable lessons from history. For example, after Reagan brought communism to its knees and President George H.W. Bush watched the fall of the Berlin wall, we still witness individuals today who openly advocate for communist and socialist agendas, which have clearly, through thorough historical analysis, proved their ineptitude. Even I find myself wondering why these political systems, that are completely antithetical to freedom, liberty, and the rights of free men to live out their God-given dreams, have seemingly cultivated a renewed faith from the American populace . As I was thinking about this post, and what freedom means, I remembered the Reagan quote on my wall. Incredibly profound, it reads:
“Freedom is never more than one generation away from extinction. We didn’t pass it to our children in the bloodstream. It must be fought for, protected, and handed on for them to do the same.”
Reading this quote and thinking about this post led me to a realization. We do not live in a nation where we are told how free we can be or where our freedom has boundaries. No, we are able to live as free as possible (even though we may have the ability to exercise our freedom in a manner we see fit, this doesn’t necessarily imply that we are free from the responsibility of our actions). As a result, we have to constantly debate not only what freedom is, but whether or not it is worth fighting for. My grandparents had to make a conscious decision to stand up for those hallowed words printed in our Declaration of Independence, that so resoundingly stated that all men are created equal. When they took to the streets to march, when they sat at the counters to protest “separate but equal,” and when they demanded that they be allowed to exercise their God-given right to vote for the leaders of this nation, they were in essence fighting for freedom.
When my grandparents were engaged in a fight for freedom, they were incidentally, and possible inadvertently, participating in a transitory period where what freedom meant was changing, not only for my parents, but for me and future generations. Freedom isn’t easy. In the words of Benjamin Franklin, “A republic, if you can keep it.” Our system of governance is extremely unique and distinctive, and for us to be bestowed the privilege to directly participate in governmental affairs and matters, and to have representatives of the people deliberating issues that we hold onto dearly, is antithetical to the majority of world history. There was no debate over healthcare or taxation under kings and queens. There was no debate over what was evil and what was not under communism and fascism. There was what was, as decided by unchecked and unaccountable rulers and monarchs.
But for us, in a particular way, it is harder to reach a common consensus and have legislation passed at a frequent rate, because of our crucial foundations in the classical liberal tradition, mainly taking the form of open debate and argumentation. Those with the disgusting opinions of racial superiority and those millennials who want to try socialism all get to freely espouse their beliefs and opinions uninhibited. However annoyed or disgusted we are, they still get to have a voice. My grandparents saw freedom as they marched, made their voices heard, secured my right to vote, and helped protect my ability to openly exercise my opinion freely.
This generation, like those before us, has a duty. We must pick up where our parents and grandparents left off, because though they secured freedom, we still have work to do. We have to argue, and hopefully succeed, in warding off the evils of Nazism and racial superiority, because freedom is won as we overcome such hatred. We have to sweat bullets as we argue the evils of communism and socialism, so that the world may never see such horrid ideologies take hold again. Freedom is won as we defeat the idea that men and women ought not to be secure in their rights, and that the government does not get to choose what they should be.
So the next time someone opens their mouth with an opinion that is antithetical to the values of freedom, liberty, and the rights of free men to live out their God-given dreams, relish in the fact that you are doing your part for freedom by verbally combating and correcting them. Our fight isn’t one that is simple or small, but one that shapes history so that the bend always points towards that free end. Delight in the fact that you are in a unique position to do what those before us did. Fight for it, protect it, and hand it to the next generation so that they can do the same.