Who We Are - Where We‘re From - Where We’re Headed
Recently, I was teaching a lesson in my American Culture course here in Shenyang, China about what makes America stand together as a truly united nation. I pointed out that China has more than 10,000 years of history on which to lean on in times of hardship, loss and tyranny. I pointed out that the Chinese culture has endured both good and very bad emperors, the Cultural Revolution, Mao and has stayed together as a people over ten centuries and is still strong and united.
Then, I asked them what they felt held The United States together as a nation. We have less than three hundred years to claim as a nation. We do not have the longevity to act as a bulwark in times of disaster and calamity as the Chinese people have. In fact, I pointed out that the one thing that holds the most power country in the history of humankind together is one piece of old parchment called the United States Constitution. If we should lose our resolve and allow that precious document to be shredded and disregarded as the supreme law of the land, the United States would cease to exist as a free and independent nation. My conversation during my class made me think deeply about the march toward freedom that took America from a fledgling young group of colonies to the freest and most cherished nation on the face of the earth. Those reflections led me to some important points of what I wrote below. As you read it, I hope it will help you renew your appreciation of who we are, where we came from and where we are headed.
Since the discovery of the new world, which was transformed into the most powerful and freest place to live and breathe in the history of the world, the flood of people who have left their homes of their birth and ventured to America has never ceased. Throughout the years, first predominantly from Europe and today from every corner of the globe, these new-world visionaries have sought to come to the United States in search of a better life, a freer existence with a hope for the opportunity of living a better more prosperous life through hard work and fair treatment.
When the descendents of those who landed in the wilderness of the new world had forged a life and discovered their own new identity as Americans, it was time to build a new nation of freedom. They threw off the shackles of those who had abused their labor and Thomas Jefferson wrote that it was clear and went without saying that all men and women were all born with the same opportunity to live free and to become what they wished and who they dreamed to be.
Thomas Jefferson laid out his ideals for humanity and a nation of liberty so clearly because he knew that the rights of all men and women were not granted by those who had the rule over them. He inscribed that the rights to a good and meaningful life, the natural ability to live and work and practice one’s faith of choice in liberty or to practice no faith at all and the all-consuming need to find happiness one’s life was God-breathed drive inside the human soul and granted by no man and could not morally be removed by tyrants either.
Jefferson and the forefathers of the United States of America did not want to set up a nation that was controlled by men but, in fact, to lay down the principles of a government that would preserve, protect and defend the freedom that lived and breathed inside the souls of all be people from their creator. Therefore, as the a new nation was conceived, they intended to ensure that no group, no person, no sort of radical thought could ever enslave the American people as the colonies former task masters had attempted to do. They insisted that though men and women may not complete the course of their lives on an equal footing, due to the decisions individuals make during their lives, they were all born with the same possibility of success and achievement and the same ability to accomplish and live their dreams.
There are many powerful truths that have been taught to our children down through the years since America became a united nation. Yet, there can be found no more powerful truth that has brought Americans together and bound us throughout the history of the young and vibrant nation, from the victory over tyranny in the US revolution and the ratification of the US Constitution, than the enduring belief in the freedom of the individual.
Individual freedom is one of the deepest and most important truths found in the US constitution and in the minds of Americans. The freedom of the individual is one of the most basic and important values in the American Republic. Nevertheless, this beautiful truth and a wonderful idea has also proven to be sometimes difficult to maintain and has even forced Americans to take up arms to fight for their right of living as a free people against evil adversaries who would enslave us, and who hated freedom.
The concept and abiding principle of individual freedom that drives Americans in almost everything we do was born out of what I call the pioneer spirit. This idea of coming to a wild and rugged land that cost the lives of many, before and after they arrived at America’s shores, was forced upon those who first ventured forth from the lands of their birth to forge a new life in a new world. It developed into what Americans have always called learning to stand on our own two feet. The difficult circumstances of building a settlement and planting crops in soil that nothing seemed to grow in caused those who survived and became our ancestors to develop a true independent pioneer outlook that said, “I have to depend on myself or I will die.”
That same spirit is woven into the very fabric of the nation today, and it is what challenged our nation’s forefathers, as they wrote the nation’s constitution, the longest enduring and shortest, most direct declaration of individual freedom to ever be written and become a nation’s supreme law. It has been said that individual freedom is so powerful in America that we have developed an ‘I’ culture. That is not to say that we are egotistical or selfish. In fact, America has been the most generous of nations through the history of humankind. It means that though we are unified and have stood together through trials of all kinds, some of which were dire moments of life and death, Americans have typically known that we are responsible for ourselves and for our futures and fortunes. The history of the nation and the people before the nation was unified has taught us to be watchful over our futures, to take risk and to be responsible for our decisions whether they be good or disastrous ones.
Probably the most amazing thing of all is the brilliance of the nation’s forefathers in drafting the nation’s constitution. The main catalyst that drove rich and poor alike to mount ships and to sail across treacherous waters was the need to escape from a system of feudal lords, aristocracy and a system of nobility that controlled how they worshipped, what they could say and what they could buy. The leaders of the nation who wrote the constitution and the nation’s first citizens who ratified it into power insisted that there be strong and enduing protections for the very inalienable rights for which so many gave their lives in the American revolution.
Because of our insistence on living with individual freedom, the nation demanded that safeguards be added in the first ten amendments to the constitution call the Bill of rights with such unwavering statements that would guarantee freedom of speech, freedom of the press, freedom of religion and from religion, the right of self defense in the form of bearing arms as one deemed necessary, and the right to protest what we feel is wrong and unconstitutional and to demand redress. It was believed and proven true that only such protections that limited the government’s power, prevented religious arrogance and authority and the absence of dictatorial nobility would guarantee equal protection, equal opportunity and competition under a fair democratic system of laws and not of men.
In America, as she was conceived and originally envisioned, the principle that everyone should have the chance to succeed or to fail has generated the greatest advancement in lifestyle, technology and healthcare than at any time in history. The unshakable ideal was voiced by President John F. Kennedy himself when he challenged Americans and the world to not be like those poor retched one who know neither victory nor defeat. Though being born in America does not ensure that one will finish their lives a success and with the life they sought, but it does grant to each the absolute chance to live their dreams successfully, depending on one’s decisions and choices made in their pursuit of happiness.
Once again, it was the life of the system of aristocracy of Europe and elsewhere, which drove our ancestors to voyage far and from every corner of the globe. In their homelands, they were virtually locked into their social level of life, which meant that a baker’s son became a baker and a king’s son became a king. Few were they who were able to break free from the fateful chains of the old country’s aristocracy. Then there was the new world, and by setting sail and landing on unknown soil, the chances of living the life one wanted, of being who one wanted to become suddenly were much more achievable, and dying in the process was a better way to live than to be enslaved into a life that was a fate worse than death.
Though arriving in the new world was a challenge, though declaring the thirteen colonies independence was a virtual suicide mission and though building a lasting system of government were all nearly impossible hopes, the nation forged ahead and it has created the greatest nation on the face of the earth and has raised the standard of living and the chance to have a longer, healthier and happier life than at any period in human history.
None of the success and power that The United States has developed since her conception has been by accident or by magic. It has been, simply put, by hard and strenuous work, dedication, consecration and patriotic fervor. The American work ethic has never been second to any other people, and the United States is responsible for some of the world’s greatest breakthroughs, including being the only nation to put men on the moon. It has been by the desire to maintain our individual right of freedom, by our insistence upon living in a nation filled with equality of opportunity and our hard and endless quest for a better and prosperous life of significance that America remains today still the greatest hope for the rest of the world.
Today, as the American people look for a more prosperous and patriotic future, it is imperative that we recognize some very powerful challenges, even grave and building dangers to our nation’s enduring greatness. Perhaps the greatest danger facing America is not from outside our borders at all. In fact, it is inside the halls of what was to be a limited and service oriented government that has become a giant monolith of power and over-reaching power, where dangerous events are even now unfolding to dismantle all we and our ancestors struggled earnestly to build. The US Government has grown by leaps and bounds in its reach into the private lives of the people it is duly sworn to protect and defend.
The US Government today has passed laws that control the way we eat, travel, communicate and gather. That which was to be a weak and limited power base now holds sway over its people in ways that are strictly forbidden in the nation’s constitution. This uncontrollable growth in government intrusion into the people individual freedom threatens to tear the heart out of the nation’s core principles and shall, if left unchecked, render the United States of America unrecognizable and in no way resembling the original intent of the forefathers and the nation set up by the US Constitution.
The government’s penchant for huge deficits has placed the nation in grave danger and indeed more dangerous to our continued existence as a nation than any war the nation has ever fought. It seems self evident that because of the nation’s loss of its work ethic of hard work and our current love of government dependence, because of our nation’s acceptance of immoral practices of abortion and the creeping menace of gay marriage and our basic loss of our religious heritage, we have plunged the greatest nation on earth onto the road to poverty and government tyranny.
We have chosen a false sense of security through the passage of unconstitutional laws. Such breaches with the prescriptions of the supreme law of the land as the patriot act and other national emergency acts make it now not only easy to foresee grave threats to liberty in America but even highly likely that the nation’s freedom will be lost unless we, as a nation, return to the constitution.
America must reign in this unconstitutional government’s long aggressive unlawful reach into the pocketbooks, homes, weapon cabinets, workplaces and places of worship of our nation people. Let us regain our footing and again insist that we stand on our own two feet. Let us demand that we be heard and listened to and take back our nation by working hard to build a nation that is based on Individual liberty, fair and equal opportunity and rediscover the value of hard work and an insistence on living in the freest nation on earth and the last best hope for mankind.