“Let Freedom Ring”
By Mike Krauss
Bucks County Courier Times
I have a Fourth of July tradition. On the day, I read the Declaration of Independence, Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address, and thanks to the internet, I listen to Martin Luther King’s speech on the Mall in Washington.
The first two still give me goosebumps. The third stirs strong emotion.
The speech is named by its great refrain, “I have a dream.” But in that speech there is another refrain, and I have always thought that perhaps Dr. King thought that was the one that would be remembered. He gave the dream a name: freedom.
“Let freedom ring,” he said.
You have to hear it. Dr. King was a marvelous orator, and the changes in the cadence, timber and tone of his voice as he said those words over and over –“Let freedom ring!” – can make you hear the bell.
It rang clearly, defiantly for Jefferson and the Founding Fathers. “All men are created equal… they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.”
That declaration is the bedrock of democracy, although some of these ideas were already current in Europe, a part of Enlightenment thought, though not declared so boldly. (But the “pursuit of happiness” was pure American, Ben Franklin's inspired edit.) But there was more.
“That to secure these rights, governments are instituted among men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed. That whenever any form of government becomes destructive to these ends, it is the right of the people to alter or to abolish it.”
That was news. The purpose of government is to secure the rights of the people, and the only legitimate government was republican, empowered by the people.
Lincoln understood how world changing that idea was, if it survived, if a nation “conceived in liberty and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal… can long endure.”
Well, by the grace of God and the sacrifice of generations it did endure, and prospered, and the bell rang loud and clear for more than another century.
But this July 4th the sound is muted and far off.
It must be hard to hear indeed for tens of millions of Americans who lost their jobs, homes and futures, and for whom the American dream has become the American ordeal.
And it must be almost impossible to hear for millions around the world, for whom the sight of an American soldier was once and not so long ago a cause for joy, but is now too often occasion for alarm, fear and even loathing.
And for Americans who cherish the Constitution, the sound can only be a sad echo of former things.
Constitutional protections like habeas corpus, which prohibit government from holding people indefinitely without presenting charges, and others which prohibit government from denying citizens the “due process and equal protection of the law” have been thrown out the window.
The Military Tribunals Commissions Act of 2006 allows anyone alleged to be an “unlawful enemy combatant” to be sentenced to death on the basis of secret and hearsay evidence.
American citizens may be similarly murdered based on a “finding” of some faceless “national security” bureaucrat: no judge, evidence or jury.
This is Rome of the Caesars or England of the Tudors.
The fourth amendment, which protected Americans from “unreasonable search and seizure” and guaranteed the privacy of their persons, homes and papers has been trashed.
Federal agents are now authorized to search anywhere, anytime for virtually any reason, as they do to track protesters (so much for free speech) or the cub scout who was groped or the aged and dying grandmother who was forced to strip and surrender her adult diaper in an airport.
“Warrant? Probable cause? What’s that?”
The driver in all this is the collapse of what was meant to be the “Peoples House” and the repository of representative and therefore republican government: the Congress of the United States. It was long ago hijacked along with the political parties.
Energy companies that make zillions are hauled before the Congress, asked why the people’s taxes ought to further subsidize their fantastic profits and then – nothing happens.
The robber barons who looted the wealth of a nation are similarly beaten up in public shows of righteous indignation, patently perjure themselves in attempts to avoid the truth of their fraud and then – nothing happens.
The Peoples House can no longer pass a budget, take responsibility for the spending it approved, assert its authority to make war or defend the rights of the people.
Small wonder that the presidency has taken on increasingly authoritarian powers. Nature abhors a vacuum. The Capitol being effectively vacant, the president has moved in.
The major change in American government over the course of the past forty years has been the elevation of profit to sacred status, and the subversion of the democratic and republican government of the Founders, Lincoln and King, as presidents and Congresses worship at profit’s altar.
If there is to be a “new birth of freedom” in America, if freedom is to ring again and Americans are once again to enjoy equally their God given rights, then corporate profit and power must be reined in.
Let freedom ring.