Freedom is not free … our liberty resulted from the many who came before us who paid a tremendous price for the freedom we enjoy today. Although I believe freedom and liberty were and are God given, it was secured in America by heroic acts and everyday day acts of simple citizenship. Freedom and liberty are so commonplace in America, many take it for granted. But that which is so precious and envied the world over is constantly under attack from both internal and external adversaries.
Thomas Jefferson said, “Every government degenerates when trusted to the rulers of the people alone. The people themselves, therefore, are its only safe depositories. And to render even them safe, their minds must be improved to a certain degree.” In other words, our freedom rests on us – we the people. We must be actively engaged civically in the pursuit of good governance, protection of human rights, and holding our elected representatives accountable. When those who are legally allowed to register to vote only do so fifty percent of the time, and those who register to vote exercise that right ten to thirty percent of the time, can we say we the citizenry are engaged?
We the people must be educated and informed on the issues, and in choosing those seeking elected office. We have to do our homework. We should participate in the debate and demand that our elected officials represent us accordingly once a majority opinion is discerned. Instead, we the people have abdicated the best interests of our country to special interest groups, divisive political parties, and last but not least self-serving elected officials.
Jefferson further states, “Educate and inform the whole mass of the people. Enable them to see that it is in their interest to preserve peace and order, and they will preserve them. And it requires no very high degree of education to convince them of this. They [the people] are the only sure reliance for the preservation of our liberty.” Do the math … half register to vote and only a minority of those exercise their right on a regular basis.
Why are we surprised (some would say shocked) that politicians and special interest groups are contributing to the erosion of American liberty and freedom each and every day. Would President Jefferson see that the masses are educated and informed on the issues of the day? No … he would see, just like many of us see, that we the people are complicit in the steady decline of the freedom we supposedly cherish. A freedom that still shines like a beacon to billions around the globe …
When our government has spent recent decades diminishing the initiative of our citizens by ever-increasing the safety net, is it a surprise that many will choose safety over initiative? Jefferson says it this way, “To take from one, because it is thought his own industry and that of his fathers has acquired to much, in order to spare to others, who, or whose fathers have not exercised equal industry and skill, is to violate arbitrarily the first principle of association, `the guaranty to every one of a free exercise of his industry, and the fruits acquired by it.”
Jefferson, in other discussions on freedom and liberty, further elaborates on the proper division of powers and duties at each level of government. Stating that true representative government is only possible when power remains in the hands of the people and when each level of government is only allowed those powers necessary for that level’s purpose (national government is to protect and defend the nation, state government is to protect civil rights and law enforcement, and local wards / districts administer the remaining administrative duties that provide for a peaceful community).
Given the wisdom of President Jefferson who warned us two hundred and thirty plus years ago to be ever vigilant in protecting our freedom and even provided the mechanics of how to do so, it is amazing to me that “we the people” have allowed our country to get in the shape it is in. When over half of Americans pay no federal taxes, why is it a wonder that they do not participate in strengthening our nation? When everything is given to you, what incentive is there to get involved and to give back?
Our nation is at a fork in the road – we will either take the necessary steps to preserve our liberty and our pursuit of happiness, or we will continue to weaken as a world power. We the People must act and act now in preserving our freedom and liberty that has made us the envy of the world throughout our history!