Essay: Are American Freedoms One Election Away from Extinction?
This essay was the basis for a speech given by the author at an event of the same name on October 6, 2020, in North Yarmouth, Maine, with fifty sponsoring groups and leaders, including the host, the Gray Republican Committee of Gray, Maine.
Oct 13, 2020
On March 30, 1961, at the Phoenix Chamber of Commerce, Ronald Reagan gave a speech called “Encroaching Control,” in which he reminded us that “freedom is never more than one generation away from extinction.” He stated:
Paraphrasing the Catholic professor William Kilpatrick, our question now is, “Are American freedoms one election away from extinction?”2
To begin our discussion, let’s look at freedom and the history of freedom. Without criticizing any good-hearted atheists, if there really were no God at all—no Creative Intelligence behind the formation of the universe—would freedom exist as a moral and inalienable right of every human being?
Without God (assuming that humans could exist at all), humans would have no anchor of goodness, no internal light that they could turn to, to guide them through lives of violence and emptiness in which those who killed the most would rule over those who survived. This is demonstrated by the fact that virtually every page of history is stained with the blood of innocents, blood that was spilled by those who could not love.
Yes, crimes against humanity have also been committed by religious people, sometimes in the names of various gods. However, when one considers that human beings have free will, which gives them the ability to love and create beauty, it also becomes apparent that their free will comes with the great risk that they may choose darker paths, having nothing to do with the Creator of Love. Thus humanity has suffered self-inflicted wounds during what has often been a painfully slow ascent toward civilization.
If we review history, it’s not very difficult to place various pages of history in separate piles marked “Relatively Good” or “Abominable.” It’s a safe bet that a majority of humans would agree that the pages labeled as Relatively Good would contain incidents of kindness, compassion, love, beauty, virtue, and freedom. The Abominable pages would be filled with sordid tales of violence, hatred, selfishness, murder, slavery, and totalitarianism.
History has clearly demonstrated that all human beings have the tragic capacity to be evil: to lie, to cheat, to steal, to murder, to enslave others, and then to justify their actions in a variety of ways that makes them feel better about themselves for as long as possible.
The Judeo-Christian religious tradition presented humankind with the revolutionary truth that the universe was not random, or created by malicious or capricious gods, but was instead created by one, transcendent God of love and goodness who promoted a moral code articulated in the Ten Commandments and the teachings of Jesus to love one’s enemy. These religious beliefs gave inherent value and dignity to every human being, without regard to their race, class, or nationality. The poorest and most scorned person could be as close to the indwelling God as the wealthiest person in society.
God was presented as a color-blind Source of Love who created all human beings as sacred, incarnational individuals who were born with the inalienable rights to be free and to grow in divinity as Beings of Love, each with their unique and personal relationship of love with their Creator.
It was this view of human beings that inspired the spread of human rights in the Judeo-Christian world, culminating in the historically unprecedented creation of a country—the United States—that was deliberately formed by its people with a government that would act as a servant to its citizens. In America, the people rule.
Those same Judeo-Christian ethics motivated good-hearted, freedom-loving people to end the plague of slavery in America, less than eighty years after the founding of the country, and later to establish guarantees that have brought the United States forward to the point where, in 1991, the black professor Orlando Patterson, the John Cowles Chair in Sociology at Harvard University, stated in a New York Times op-ed titled “Race, Gender and Liberal Fallacies” that America:
This is not a description of a systemically racist country.
Peter Falkenberg Brown is a native of Portland. He's the Chairman of the Gray Republican Committee and is the Info/Web Committee Chair for the Cumberland County Republican Committee. He's passionate about writing, publishing, public speaking and film.