A Memorial Day Message
May 30, 1999
FREEDOM: The right to keep and bear arms is not about duck
hunting, or even self defense. As the Founders made clear, it is about
the preservation of Freedom. And the issue of gun control is not about
violence or crime prevention. It is about the attempts by many to
destroy that Freedom.
Do we really care so little for our Freedom? No, not really. But we have grown jaded with so many generations of Freedom, that we believe it is eternal. Our Constitution, which guarantees our Freedom, has become a document which we revere but which we no longer understand, either in its meaning or its purpose.
A 1997 poll showed that 91% of the people say that the Constitution is important to them, 89% are proud of the Constitution, and even 84% understand that in order to work as intended, our Constitutional system depends on active and informed citizens. In spite of the belief of 77% of the people that one does not have to be a lawyer in order to understand the Constitution, only 5% of Americans actually do understand it on even a rudimentary level. Only 5% of the people polled could answer 10 very rudimentary questions about our Constitution.
So we know what our responsibility is, we know how important that responsibility is, but we refuse to accept that responsibility. Most people believe that our Freedom would not be at risk, even if our Constitutional system does not work as intended because most people are obviously not active and most certainly not informed.
We believe that somehow, even if we refuse to accept our responsibilities as citizens in a free republic, even if we continue to elect unprincipled and amoral panderers to government office and then ignore their violations of trust and even their outright criminality, even if we continue to ignore, even attack the very principles of our Constitution at every opportunity, that somehow our Freedom will not be at risk.
Our Freedom is very much at risk. We lose Freedom every day, and every day we drift closer to totalitarianism. And we are oblivious to the danger. Criminals misuse guns to commit crimes and politicians seek to punish, not the criminals, but honest citizens who have committed no crime. And we cheer them on. City after city files frivolous lawsuits against gun manufacturers, we thereby risk losing our Constitutional rights to greedy lawyers and opportunistic politicians, and we watch as if in a daze and do nothing. How many honest citizens will have to die because they were unable to defend themselves against armed criminals, before we wake up?
Two hundred years ago, our Constitution had an immediacy and a vitality to those who sacrificed everything they held dear, their lives, their fortunes, and their sacred honor, in order to establish its principles. Every clause, every phrase, every word, was fiercely debated, fought over, refined, and finally after much soul-searching, enacted as the supreme law of the new land. As the memory of living under a totalitarian king faded, so did the immediacy of that document which had emerged from the crucible of a revolutionary war. So did its meaning, until today we merely pay homage to it as some mystical icon that we have no need to understand, let alone to actively defend.
Two hundred years ago, our Freedom was established by a generation who earned it with their blood. In the generations since, Americans confronted with the need to defend our Constitutional system against those who would destroy it have risen to the occasion, and many thousands have sacrificed all to defend our Freedom.
In 1868, Memorial Day was established as Decoration Day, the occasion to honor the sacrifice and decorate the graves of those who fell in battle to preserve our Freedom. Who, today, takes the time to visit that quite corner of their local cemetery, to spend a few minutes contemplating that 19 year old corporal who did his duty with such valor that he was awarded – posthumously -- our nation’s highest accolade, the Congressional Medal of Honor? Who even thinks of such selfless sacrifice any more? Not us, we’re too busy with beaches and barbecues and our own personal pursuits. And in one sense, that’s why that young man died in the prime of his life, to give us the freedom for such frivolity.
But rather than cherish that gift, too many of us mock it with our phony pretensions to moral superiority, our narcissism, our victimology politics and baby-boomer angst. Take a few moments to think about that young corporal, and just perhaps it might dawn on a few of us what damage we do, to our political system and to our culture, with our glib defense of the indefensible.
We, today, seem to believe that we deserve our Freedom simply because we inherited it. And like the wastrel heir who inherits a fortune without the slightest conception of what was required to create it, we are squandering our inheritance, and one day we shall wake up and find it gone. And we won’t have the slightest idea how or why it was lost, or how to get it back.
[additional formatting by TYSK]