Patriotism restores personal liberty

I have been asked many times what motivates me. What is it that gives me such drive to pursue the studies and hobbies I do? Why have I pursued writing this column as I have?
The answer to these questions comes from my conviction that everything this country is about captures what is best in life. Certainly, I do not mean to place patriotism above individual liberty. Rather, I suggest that in America, the relationship between them is close enough to generate one’s devotion to uphold America’s ideals. “The name of American which belongs to you in your national capacity,” wrote George Washington, “must always exalt the just pride of patriotism more than any appellation derived from local discriminations.”
Visiting Gettysburg, I remember sensing that I was standing on ground that encapsulated the passions that this country is all about. A huge loss of American life resulted there during the Civil War. Although their beliefs differed dramatically, their dedication to American aspirations was the same. But as each one of us deals with similar challenges in defining our society and world today, I know each day with more certainty the truth of Abraham Lincoln’s hallowed words over the fields of Gettysburg:
“It is for us the living to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced. It is for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us — that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion — that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain — that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom — and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.”
It was in this spirit that so many people gave their lives so that we today could enjoy our freedoms. I have come to revere willingness to make personal sacrifices for what we believe is right. Thus, likewise stands the poignant quote: “Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for a friend.”
I feel that the commitment to our fellow men and women requires us to be constantly adamant in speaking in defense of good causes and against errors in judgment. This is what the Daily is providing a forum for in these pages. This is also an American tradition of the highest calling. Thus stands immortal this passage in George Washington’s famous farewell address:
“… It is of infinite moment that you should properly estimate the immense value of your national union to your collective and individual happiness; that you should cherish a cordial, habitual, and immovable attachment to it; accustoming yourselves to think and speak of it as of the palladium of your political safety and prosperity; watching for its preservation with jealous anxiety; discountenancing whatever may suggest even a suspicion that it can in any event be abandoned, and indignantly frowning upon the first dawning of every attempt to alienate any portion of our country from the rest or to enfeeble the sacred ties which now link together the various parts.”
Some of you have noticed the vigor of my commitments that I have often written about in this column. This is because I feel that the duty to speak out against error is real and serious. Many people have given their lives for such rights and duties. Many more may risk their lives for these rights in the future. All over the world, this aspect of American life is envied.
Such a right and duty is not just a passing fancy. It is a part of our nation’s heritage. As enshrined in the Declaration of Independence: “Whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it. … When a long train of abuses and usurpations … evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government.” This begins to address another question that has been asked of me: With all the problems in the world, how do I remain hopeful and committed?
The answer to this involves the above cited passage of the Declaration of Independence and something more personal. Despite what are sometimes calamities in life, it is my belief that if we never give up and keep striving for what is right, in time, reward will be ours. As Ronald Reagan triumphantly said in his 1981 Inaugural Address: “I do not believe in a fate that will fall on us no matter what we do. I do believe in a fate that will fall on us if we do nothing.” Thus, if you forfeit your convictions to others, you forfeit your right to determine the future.
I can think of no more important endeavor today than to seek the betterment of our nation and our world. Behind all the problems is so much opportunity. Thus, seize the day to do justice when justice is waning.
At the same time, however, I am equally compelled to speak out against even the most innocent of errors that weaken the integrity of America. Most often, this happens through manipulation of laws, even though such changes are pursued with good intentions. Such examples today would be the liberal War on Poverty and affirmative action. “Let there be no change by usurpation,” Washington said, “for though this in one instance may be the instrument of good, it is the customary weapon by which free governments are destroyed.”
What Thomas Jefferson called “the sum of good government” is something that requires earnest and honest pursuit. How to do this is not always evident. Nonetheless, what is clear is that this pursuit requires us to be vigilant in liberty’s defense.
This is why I am proud of even my harshest critics this year. While I differ with their views, I salute their eager boldness to fight for what they believe is right. Truly, “with malice toward none, with charity for all, with firmness in the right as God gives us to see the right,” as Lincoln directs, “do all which may achieve and cherish a just and lasting peace among ourselves and with all nations.”
In closing this last column of mine, I wish to express the appreciation I feel for four people who meant very much to me this year: Beth Winters, my sister Gita, Valaine Anderson, and Philip Spencer. And to all of you, good luck with finals and have a great summer.
Joe Roche’s column appeared in the Daily every Monday.