Guest commentary: Contemplating our freedoms
By: Greg Hull, Silver Creek, Lake County News Chronicle
Occasionally, people of great political and social insight emerge on our national stage. Think of leaders like Abraham Lincoln, Franklin Roosevelt, and Ronald Reagan. Folks like these seem to have an intuitive grasp of the current issues threatening the very core of a national existence, the understanding of how to deal with it, and the ability to persuade and motivate a majority of the populace to follow them.
What is unique about the founding of the United States is the number of political geniuses gathered at one place at one time: George Washington, Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Jefferson, Alexander Hamilton, John Adams, James Monroe, and more.
Their insight into our fundamental rights of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness was radical and far reaching. But just as insightful was their understanding of the freedoms that would need to be protected so that these rights could be realized and expressed. The protection of five essential liberties were viewed as critical to the realization of our fundamental rights.
Those “Five Essentials,” protected in the Bill of Rights, are: Freedom of The Exercise of Religion, Freedom of Speech, Freedom of the Press, Freedom of Assembly, and Freedom of Self-protection.
Even the order is insightful – for it is the first that is most crucial, and serves as the foundation to the following four.
The Freedom of Religion isn’t merely the freedom to believe whatever I want. The capacity to believe whatever I want is something no one can take away. You can take away all my possessions, put me in jail, treat me in the most humiliating and degrading way possible, and yet not change my fundamental beliefs at all. The First Amendment protects not merely the right to believe, but recognizes the right to implement my most fundamental beliefs.
Without that foundational freedom, the right to free speech wouldn’t mean much. After all, what do we want to talk about? The weather and sports? Certainly those are topics for polite and brief conversation, but the most meaningful conversations are those that deal with our core beliefs and values. Without Freedom of Religion, the Freedom of Speech becomes empty.
The same goes for the Freedom of the Press. This isn’t just about printing the news, but gives me the right to publish the ideas and views that arise from core beliefs.
As for the Freedom of Assembly, who do I want to get together with? Having the neighbors over for coffee is included, but I also want to gather with folks who believe like I do to talk about those issues and challenges we face related to our core values. I want to be able to gather with people who share my convictions. Without the right to express those convictions, how could I know whom to meet with?
The Freedom of Self-protection is more than keeping guns for hunting. It is this right to protect myself and others from attacks waged against me for what I believe. There will always be those who, rather than engage in an exchange of ideas, will want to subdue me by force or violence. I have the right to protect myself against their attacks, even if it is the government itself.
There will always be those who will attempt to subvert or reduce these freedoms. To insure these liberties for the next generation, let us commit ourselves to them again, and with a firm reliance on the protection of Divine Providence, let us do so with our lives, our fortunes and our sacred honor.
Greg pursues happiness by making sawdust at his saw mill, occasionally at the risk of life and limb, if not liberty. His email is email@example.com