It’s easy to take things for granted. We don’t think about what we have until we’ve lost it or it’s at risk of being lost.
That’s part of why it’s become fashionable to act like America is somehow apocalyptically bad: Few know or think about what we have, or what it took to obtain and defend it. We don’t think of our blessings, and so we forget to be grateful.
We have people on both sides of the political spectrum proclaiming the end of America, the end of all it once stood for and of the ideas upon which it was founded. This theme is particularly pronounced among the Left, who delight in denouncing our nation.
But this Memorial Day, I urge you to consider the price of liberty. I urge you to consider its goodness and the great fortune of being an American.
So set aside your grievances for a day. Stand silently before the graves of the countless service members who gave up their lives to protect our ability to have these arguments at all.
Because it is a gift — it’s a gift worth dying for; a gift many have died for.
As Americans, we live in a nation that dared at its Founding to affirm that man, governed rightly, might flourish in liberty. It was a nation dedicated to the proposition that liberty was worth dying for, that it was inextricable from real happiness. And the Founders were right.
Pride in our nation is pride in the ambitious vision laid out in our Declaration of Independence: “[That] all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”
Our Founders understood the risks that liberty entailed. Their caution and foresight prompted long public debates at the time. They argued over how much power states ought to have. They argued over the role of religion. They argued over the limits of speech, the nature of freedom.
They argued over everything — and this debate was essential to the formation of our government. Our very first constitutional amendment permanently affirms the right to have such debates. Freedom of speech, religion and assembly are critical to the democratic republic the Founders had in mind.
But they knew the terrible risks associated with liberty. They knew the avarice of man. They had seen, both in contemporary politics and in history, that power corrupts. And they established the American governmental system with that reality in mind.
They developed a system which sought to pit the inevitable selfishness and short-sightedness of men against each other, and mitigate its effects on the people. They even sought to counteract the short-sightedness and selfishness of the people, should it arise, with institutions aimed at sober-headed pursuit of justice.
But we forget this so easily. We forget the risks, we forget our blessings, we forget the sacrifices made on our behalf.
This Memorial Day, as we continue to fight against short-sightedness and debate the best path forward for our country, I ask that you remember these things. I ask that you remember how precious our liberties are. I ask that you remember the risks entailed by the freedom with which we’ve been privileged.
And most importantly, I ask that you remember the men and women who died so that you might do so.
Timothy Head is executive director of the Faith & Freedom Coalition.