Memorial Day Reflections on the Price of Freedom

The Price of Freedom

The price of freedom is steep.  Sometimes, it comes at the expense of a human life. That’s something we ponder deeply on Memorial Day. But the benefits of freedom can far outweigh its costs. Still, to ensure those benefits, we must have character.  (See: Preserving Freedom Demands Character.) For without character, freedom and liberty are easily abused.

Freedom’s Peril in Our Age

The general principles underlying a truly free society are indeed noble. But the whole enterprise depends on character. The framers of our constitution understood this. In fact, John Adams asserted it directly. The overiding principle is fairly straightforward: Don’t oppress or restrain decent folks with a solid moral and ethical compass and fantastic things will happen – not just for them – but for all. But it all hinges on folks’ decency.

These days, the divisions among us are great. And some would argue, getting greater every day. We live in an age of unprecedented character dysfunction, especially narcissism. In fact, it’s become so commonplace we’ve gotten used to it. It’s the new normal. And it’s expressed so subtly somtimes that it can be very difficult to recognize.  In many ways, we’ve become desensitized, even numb. In fact, some of the most vulgar displays of narcissism no longer shock us.

So, here, in a nutshell, is freedom’s real peril: if we don’t get our character act together, we stand to lose our freedom. It’s already happening. Too many times, government compels what decent people might easily naturally do out of the goodness of their heart. (Being told and forced to wear masks during a pandemic is just one example.)

Willingly and Joyfully Paying the Price

The true price of freedom is personal responsibility. And some of us have it within us to pay this price willingly and with joy. Today is a day to celebrate our freedom. It’s also a day to remember its many costs and those who paid the ultimate price.

As many of you know, a year or so before 9-11, my wife and I wrote a song. The sentiment behind it was mostly about gratitude for our freedoms. But in that gratititude is a deeply felt obligation to honor America’s true promise. And that’s something that has to happen at a personal level.

Cultural Greatness

Some talk about making America great again. We’ve had periods of greatness, to be sure. But we’ve also had periods of shame. And who would’t want their country to be great? But America’s real greatness has never resided in its military might or economic power. (Both of these are second to none.) Rather, our true greatness lies in people of character who both honor and live out our noblest ideals. It’s people accepting their responsibilities. And it’s people remembering that to truly prosper indiviually we must also strive for the prosperity of all.

So, once again we offer you our musical salute to our country. I hope you enjoy and also hope you’ll share America, My Home.

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