Cherish our Freedom by Living it Out
In the 1940s, Normal Rockwell completed a series of 4 paintings on freedoms, highlighting freedom of speech, of worship, freedom from fear and freedom from want. My favorite is freedom of speech; it features a working class man at a meeting getting up, and speaking his mind as the others look on with respect.
What makes our country’s Declaration of Independence unique is that the founders in their wisdom state we are given inalienable rights from our Creator; not the government. Rather, the government should respect these rights and safeguard them.
As we all know, there are many threats to that.
Certainly there have been foreign enemies who would like to see our nation wiped off the face of the earth.
And there have been intrusions on liberty by government in our own nation’s history too; in part this led to the Civil War and need for people to stand up for Civil Rights during the 1960s.
All of us have seen the war on the unborn; we just marked one year since the overturning of Roe. v Wade, and many states have put limits on the killing of the unborn. Sadly, our state government went in the opposite direction, enshrining it in law up until birth.
And recently Supreme Court Justice Neil Gorsuch wrote an excellent piece on the Covid response as one of the greatest intrusions on civil liberties. He pointed out how executive officials issued emergency decrees on a breathtaking scale, imposing lockdowns, mandates, and closing businesses, schools, public and private. In his words: “Fear and the desire for safety are powerful forces. They can lead to a clamor for action — almost any action — as long as someone does something to address a perceived threat…A leader or an expert who claims he can fix everything, if only we do exactly as he says, can prove an irresistible force. Another lesson was that “the concentration of power in the hands of so few may be efficient and sometimes popular. But it does not tend toward sound government.” Now this is not to say no precautions should have been made in Covid. As for me, I personally chose to get vaccinated and receive several boosters; but I also remember seeing talking heads saying the unvaccinated needed to be treated as second class citizens, excluded from even grocery stores. That’s scary (and why we have a Constitution; the founders felt strongly about the rights of minority viewpoints). And as the pandemic wore on, we did see mass gatherings allowed, but houses of worship still closed; we saw liquor stores and abortion centers open, but not churches. This in part is why our Archbishop went to bat to get our churches open for Mass by the summer of 2020.
However, it’s also why we have a Constitution and a separation of powers and checks and balances. My hope is that this Independence Day, we all have a greater respect for our freedoms as citizens, and also exercise them.
For one, we can thank those who defend them. Saying “thanks” to a veteran or someone in a uniform is a great small action to do.
Second, we can exercise our freedoms. If you don’t like how things are going, do something about it. Vote, most obviously. But volunteer. Speak your mind. Write your elected officials on issues that matter. Rediscover the argument, not the shouting, and engage with others to articulate what you believe. This is something I have to do as a priest. I know at times a homily will “ruffle feathers,” but it’s my job to speak about Church teachings. As such over the years, I’ve preached on abortion, capital punishment, racism, immigration, and marriage between a man and a woman and there being two genders. But I hope to challenge folks to think about their faith. This is up to all of us too. We can’t fear being “canceled” or “unfriended.” As we’ve heard these past few weeks in our readings, we are called and sent. A tax on stamps and tea in part led to a revolution. These days, what is so disturbing to see is so much apathy. I truly think many would be fine with losing freedom if it meant government checks and access to Netflix. That can’t be our mentality.
Third, we need to know our freedom and pass it on. Talking to kids about the history of our country, giving them an appreciation for the sacrifices of soldiers, explaining to them what the Constitution is, or taking them on a tour of the State Capital. All of these are simple things we can do to never forget the great country we live in.
Fourth, we can sacrifice. As JFK said, “Ask not what your country can do for you, but what you can do for your country.” Each of us has the power to be a person of hope who changes this world for the better. Many of us sacrifice for our families; we should also always be looking at what we can do to change this world for the better through evangelization in words and actions.
Lastly, may we pray for our country and cherish what we have. America is far from perfect, but we are very blessed to live here and have the freedoms protected that Rockwell depicted in his work many years ago.
I hope you have a wonderful Independence Day – God bless, and God bless America.
Have a blessed week,
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