(Author’s note: The following is a continuation of the column begun on the front page this week. The total work deals with both the past and the future of our nation. Part is history; part is conjecture and opinion. All is written with an abiding love of country.)
By Stan Welch
Life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness – these words have become a familiar and almost meaningless phrase. Of the fifty six men who declared their God given right to those things, the great majority did not attain them. Lives were lost, happiness was elusive or short lived; but freedom began to ring across America, and it would spread across the world.
America would become known as the land of opportunity, a place where a stout spirit and a willing heart could lift one to heights undreamed of anywhere else on the planet. That reputation, that promise became known the world over; and America became a dream for millions. Those millions came here and learned our ways and pursued their own life and liberty and happiness. And the great majority of them found it, continuing to build the greatest nation ever known.
Soon, even those nations far away looked to America to defend their freedom, when it was threatened by tyrants, or by dictators. America became known as a damn good friend and a powerful enemy. And freedom began ringing in places where it was once just a fairy tale.
But as decades passed, and the sound of freedom echoed around the world, it ever so gradually began to diminish at home. Life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness became hollow words, instead of goals or ambitions. The bounty that America produced became its burden. There seemed little to pursue except the next dollar or the next senseless, numbing entertainment.
Life lost its value, as the results of its creation became an inconvenience, instead of a cause for celebration. Liberty became license and lasciviousness, and happiness was nothing more than the constant and immediate gratification of one’s desires.
The willingness, nay, the eagerness to make whatever sacrifice was necessary to be an American vanished. In its stead grew the expectation that simple residence was cause enough to harvest one’s share of the bounty; a feeling that citizenship was no longer a part of the pursuit, indeed the feeling that the pursuit was unnecessary. One had only to wait and what was their due would be given.
And so, as the lessons of our history faded and their echoes died away, so too did the promise of our future; until we are once again at the point where we must decide if we are willing to pledge all that we have to once again claim our birthright as the freest and most remarkable nation on earth.
The decisions facing us are not simple and should not be made with an awareness of the consequences one jot less than that which our forefathers had. Be careful, my friends, should you once again choose liberty. It does not come without a heavy cost. But neither does the alternative choice. The difference is that liberty both requires and provides honor. The alternative simply destroys it.
Just some food for thought while you’re sitting around the pool or patio this weekend.
Happy Birthday, America. Many happy returns, perhaps.