July 4th is not the day on which representatives of the first citizens of the United States voted to declare their nation’s independence. (They did that on July 2nd.) It’s the day on which they approved the words of the Declaration of Independence, with which the people of the United States proclaimed their independence to the world. These days we would call it a media statement.
With the Declaration in mind, I was deeply struck by glaring omissions in Barack Obama’s statement to an audience gathered at the White House for a musical concert:
It’s important to remember what a miracle this country is. How incredibly lucky we are that people generations ago were willing to take up arms and fight for our freedom. And then people inside this country, understanding that there were imperfections in our union, were willing to keep on fighting on behalf of extending that freedom to all people and not just some. And that story of independence is not something that happens and then we just put away. It’s something that we have to fight for every single day. It’s something that we have to nurture. And we have to spread the word. And we have to work on it. And it involves us respecting each other. And it involves us recognizing that there are still people in this country who are going hungry. And that they’re not free because of that. There are still people in this country who can’t find work. And freedom without the ability to contribute to society, and put a roof over your head, and look after your family, that’s not yet what we aim for.
The concert had to serve in lieu of a traditional July 4th picnic, honoring member of the military and their families, which was “canceled due to rain.” I wonder if the logistics for the event were handled by U.S. military personnel? Having grown up as an Army brat, I’m inclined to doubt it. Our military used to follow routine that assured preparedness, especially when it comes to securing critical staging areas from easily anticipated non-lethal assaults.
Of course, Barack Obama’s idea of military preparedness is to abuse the chain of command in order to make sure military personnel are prepared to neglect the measure of respect due to human nature, even when they go to the toilet. In this disrespect, his anti-American ideology rejects the self-evident truths set forth in the American Declaration of Independence. Those truths that demand respect for “the laws of nature and of Nature’s God,” including the rights our Creator has especially entailed upon humanity.
This rejection of the Declaration is clear in Barack Obama’s statement. He claims that the first patriots of the United States fought for “freedom.” But the word used in their Declaration is “liberty.” It refers the species of freedom exercised according to “the laws of nature and of Nature’s God,” so as to constitute an unalienable right. Liberty thus understood is freedom exercised in light of humanity’s responsibility to God, whose self-determined will is the basis for the rule that informs and preserves the distinction between human and non-human existence.
Obama says we must respect each other, but respect has no meaning when there is no rule or measure for recognizing humanity’s intrinsic worth. Obama’s speciously plausible litany of material goods and achievements tacitly disregards the need for such a standard. Thus he implies that freedom means having a job, some shelter, and the opportunity to contribute to society. But before the Civil war black slaves on plantations in the Old South had all these things. What they didn’t have was the opportunity freely to bear their responsibility for doing what God’s goodwill entails upon all humanity — which is to give evidence of things hoped for though not yet seen, but which the conscience of humanity takes account of before, by God and our own actions, they substantially appear.
Such are the moral facts of human existence; the tokens of humanity that may appear regardless of material conditions. They reveal a standard for humanity values the worth of the immaterial goods the human heart is capable of producing; goods that God remembers before and forever after they appear. The materialistic wares of “freedom” peddled by Obama and his ilk, devalue these things. Yet they are treasures within the reach of all persons, no matter how bereft of money, goods and power. They retain their worth even when those who are high and mighty, by worldly measures, tell us that the poor and powerless are, as such, worthless and incapable of decent freedom.
But the American Declaration of Independence speaks of God’s rule; and of the laws by which He judges our worth in terms of our simple choice to do right, made and persisted in regardless of any power but the Power that has preserved and made us men and women. The Declaration speaks of powers of government derived from our consent to do right; powers assembled as and when we commit ourselves to stand as one in the pursuit of justice, God-endowed. Thus we each become, as it were, ministers of government, powers-that-be authorized by God’s Providence to join in ordaining and establishing the Constitution for the United States.
“Luck” is not the source of this opportunity to govern ourselves. Rather it derives from our common commitment to fulfill our responsibility to God. This is the freedom Americans risked and gave their all to fight for in the war that followed their Declaration of Independence. It is the freedom the patriots practiced as they went hungry, freezing, barely sheltered, and unshod, during the terrible winter at Valley Forge. It is the freedom others like them were still fighting for when they faced death and inevitable defeat at places like the Alamo. It is the freedom, not just their own, for which they poured forth their lives on the blood-clotted battlefields of the Civil War; and in the war intended to defeat atrocious Nazi tyranny.
In this sense, Obama is mistaken when he claims that people who go hungry, or without shelter and other material goods, are “not free because of that.” People who trust in the promises of God’s justice, betokened for all humanity in the laws that He has written on our hearts, are free, whatever their material condition. They are free whenever they rely upon Him for the courage to give one another aid. In every generation Americans have proved this. Battling against the odds they gave evidence, time and again, of the good faith that is the source and measure of our true greatness. This is the freedom of unalienable right to which the Declaration gives the name of liberty. But ominously Obama says that it is “not yet what we aim for.”
With this in mind, reconsider Obama’s words. They disappear as hollow babble into the deafening spaces where the words, the logic, and the moral challenge of the Declaration’s premises for our identity as a people should have been. In this respect Obama brings to mind the famous Sherlock Holmes detective story (Sliver Blaze), about the dog whose silence revealed a criminal act. In this case the crime involved is the elitist faction’s attack on the very foundation of our rights, including liberty.
Obama is not the only one whose silence bespeaks the abandonment of the self-evident truths that encourage us to live as truly free. He speaks for those, in every Party, in every walk of life, who deny both God and the laws of His creation; who speak as if no one without material goods and power is entitled to be respected simply for their humanity.
But if this is so, the many who are relatively poor and powerless have no hope but in the few who are powerful. What shall that avail them when elitists have successfully restored the age old tyranny of the few our nation was conceived to overthrow? The rich and powerful will return to being the unchallenged arbiters of all, simply because the rest of us have carelessly abandoned the faith that gives reason to our appeal to the Creator, God, whose absolutely powerful goodwill informs our rights, and enables us to preserve them, if we are truly have the will to do so.