- Declaration of Independence - Second Amendment to the U.S. Constitution
"We hold these Truths to be self-evident, 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--That to secure these Rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just Powers from the Consent of the Governed ..."
The Declaration of Independence and the Constitution, though not expressly Christian documents, are based on the assumption that our rights and freedoms come from God. But as with all of God's material blessings, those freedoms demand responsibility on our part. Put simply, liberty requires stewardship.
Irish statesman John Philpot Curran stated it perfectly: "The condition upon which God hath given liberty to man is eternal vigilance; which condition if he break, servitude is at once the consequence of his crime and the punishment of his guilt."
In an effort to ensure that liberty remained secure for future generations, our Founding Fathers established a system of government that was designed to keep power as decentralized and as evenly distributed as possible. Having lived under the oppression of a despotic king, they understood the dangers of allowing power to be concentrated in the hands of an elite few. They even went to war to throw off the yoke of tyranny.
Today, most Americans have this unshakable belief that everything we have today we owe to those who have donned a uniform and have taken up arms for the state. Many of you have probably seen the following in an e-mail that was forwarded by a friend, co-worker or family member around Memorial Day:
It is the veteran, not the preacher, who has given us freedom of religion.These statements are designed to evoke a feeling of national pride as well as a sense of gratitude toward our men and women in uniform. They are standing on the front lines, willing to sacrifice themselves for the rest of us, so we should thank them for the freedoms we enjoy.
It is the veteran, not the reporter, who has given us freedom of the press.
It is the veteran, not the poet, who has given us freedom of speech.
It is the veteran, not the campus organizer, who has given us freedom to assemble.
It is the veteran, not the lawyer, who has given us the right to a fair trial.
It is the veteran, not the politician, who has given us the right to vote.
It is the veteran, who salutes the Flag, who serves under the Flag, whose coffin is draped by the Flag.
You will note, however, that no particular group of veterans is singled out. The implication is that every veteran--in every declared or undeclared war, in every deployment, in every part of the world--has played a crucial role in securing liberty. If that is true, then how exactly has freedom in the United States been protected by our "humanitarian" actions in places like Bosnia, Haiti and Somalia? How were our freedoms protected by losing 241 soldiers in Beirut or nearly 60,000 in Vietnam? I realize these may seem like callous questions in a time when patriotism is defined by flag decals and yellow ribbons, but since we have already lost close to 1,500 troops in the "war on terror," shouldn't we at least consider what the Founders had to say about protecting freedom? Or are we content to believe that the military is the only thing standing between us and complete annihilation, and that we should "support our troops" no matter what the cause?
We are told that nations like the U.S. are targeted because terrorists seek to establish a worldwide Islamic theocracy. That is why we are in Iraq and Afghanistan. According to the Bush administration, "We're fighting them abroad so that we don't have to fight them here at home" (the bombings in Spain and England notwithstanding).
The object, I assume, is to beat the terrorists to the punch and establish worldwide democracy, effectively diminishing the possibility of terrorist attacks (again, recent bombings in democratic nations notwithstanding). So, there is no question that our troops in the Middle East are protecting our freedom, right?
But a standing army, ready and willing to launch pre-emptive attacks against sovereign countries, was never considered by the Founding Fathers as vital to the survival of the nation. Rather, that responsibility lay primarily at the feet of "we the people."
Author and columnist Brad Edmonds, in an essay entitled "News Flash: The Military Doesn't Protect Our Freedom," writes:
Our framers decided that the natural right of each individual to own weapons, and to form a militia with his neighbors, was the best guarantor of freedom. Further, there is no provision in the Constitution for a permanent, standing army--to the contrary, the framers considered a standing army a constant threat to liberty.That was the essence of the Second Amendment which recognizes the importance of the militia--a reference to all able-bodied males who owned guns--and the right of Americans to keep and bear arms. In short, a well-armed citizenry is more important than any army when it comes to the defense of liberty.
For proof of this, look no further than the terrorist attacks of 9/11. The most powerful military in the history of civilization was unable to prevent the hijacking of four commercial airliners. One or two guns on each of those planes, however, could have saved 3,000 lives. And yet we continue to think that a Second Generation military is key to winning a Fourth Generation war.
Are you serious about protecting freedom? Do you want to do what you can for the preservation of liberty? Mr. Edmonds has some advice: "Own a high-powered rifle, and know how to use it safely and responsibly. Educate yourself and your friends about the dangers of forcible government."
It is that "forcible government" that has been systematically disarming Americans over the years while at the same time taking more power for itself. One of the reasons we have stood by and let it happen is our love for the military. But massive armies haven't prevented nations and empires from crumbling in the past. Why should we think that the U.S. is the exception?
If freedom is a gift, then let us be wise stewards of what we have been given. How responsible can we be if we continue to elect representatives who believe that the best defense of liberty is to send our countrymen off to kill and die for the interests of the state? The result is always an increase in the size and scope of government.
Noted anti-federalist Richard Henry Lee once said, "To preserve liberty, it is essential that the whole body of the people always possess arms, and be taught alike, especially when young, how to use them." A well-armed citizenry not only provides a defense against terrorists and other foreign invaders, but it also acts as a natural barrier to tyranny here at home.
That, of course, doesn't change the fact that uniformed soldiers marching off to war in a foreign land paints a more noble and romantic picture than a redneck in a pickup with a gun rack. It may sound un-American, but the latter is what has kept America free.
- Declaration of Independence"A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed."
- Second Amendment to the U.S. Constitution