• We must, indeed, all hang together, or most assuredly we shall all hang separately. -Benjamin Franklin, Freedom Fighter

  • We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly. -Martin Luther King, Jr., Freedom Fighter

  • Let us be cautious in making assertions and critical in examining them, but tolerant in permitting linguistic forms. -Rudolf Carnap, Philosopher

  • A clash of doctrines is not a disaster—it is an opportunity. -Alfred North Whitehead, Philosopher

  • If we could read the secret history of our enemies we should find in each man’s life sorrow and suffering enough to disarm all hostility. -Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, Poet

  • Out beyond ideas of wrongdoing and rightdoing, there is a field. I’ll meet you there. -Rumi, Mystic

  • If you would be a real seeker after truth, it is necessary that at least once in your life you doubt, as far as possible, all things. – Rene Descartes, Philosopher

  • A house divided against itself cannot stand. -Abraham Lincoln, President

  • Problems cannot be solved by the same level of thinking that created them. -Albert Einstein, Scientist

  • Be the change you want to see in the world. -Mahatma Gandhi, Freedom Fighter

Constitution Day, 2005

We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.

Preamble to the Constitution
United States of America

In 1776, they came from their farms, their villages, and their cities, rebel soldiers against tyranny. Over a period of nearly 200 years they had seen for themselves the blessings of liberty. And they were not about to sacrifice these blessings to the tyranny of George III.

Eleven years later, in the hot Philadelphia summer of 1787, they came together victorious; wise philosophers dedicated to creating a new form of government, conceived in liberty and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal; a government whose avowed purpose was to secure the blessings of liberty to themselves and their posterity.

We are their posterity.

And we are in greater danger of losing these blessings than at any time since the Civil War.

The fourth anniversary of the 9/11 atrocities, the recent bombings in London, and the continued violence in the Middle East are a too stark reminder that we have not yet laid down our swords and our shields.

December’s tsunami and Hurricane Katrina leave no doubt about our increasing vulnerability to the consequences of a warming planet.

The challenges of an emerging world-wide middle class; the increasing poisoning of our air, water and land; the increasing likelihood of a deadly aviary flu epidemic; the growing disparity between America’s haves and our have-nots; the strain on the economy as baby-boomers age; the anger and rancor between the far-right and far-left …

The list goes on.

And it threatens to destroy the blessings of liberty that our parents and grandparents and their grandparents lived, fought and died for.

But it doesn’t have to be that way.

********************

From where do the blessings of liberty come?

The … causes of faction are … sown in the nature of man … A zeal for different opinions concerning religion, concerning government, and many other points … an attachment to different leaders ambitiously contending for pre-eminence and power … have, divided mankind into parties, inflamed them with mutual animosity, and rendered them much more disposed to vex and oppress each other than to co-operate for their common good … The regulation of these various and interfering interests forms the principal task of modern legislation, and involves the spirit of party and faction in the necessary and ordinary operations of the government.

The Federalist No. 10
James Madison

Liberty, as Madison so wisely understood it, was the very cause of faction. To eliminate factions was to destroy liberty, replacing it with tyranny. As Madison wrote, “The remedy … was worse than the disease.” Factions are evidence of the resiliency of liberty and it is through their growth and decay that the blessings of liberty evolve through history.

The special genius of the founders lay in creating a Newtonian-like system of checks and balances that thwarts the natural tendency of faction to impose tyranny by encouraging the emergence of tyranny-destroying counter-factions.

When a faction becomes too powerful, it appears tyrannical to those not in the faction. And the Constitution’s intricate system of limited and delegated powers, augmented by the Bill of Rights, gives alternative factions the opportunity to compete for public support, where, if they are worthy of support, they can counter-balance the more powerful faction.

Or as Newton put it: Every action (by a faction) has an equal and opposite reaction.

********************

The fundamental challenge facing our generation of Americans is that today’s most powerful factions believe themselves to be the exclusive carriers of TRUTH. And as believers in TRUTH throughout time they feel perfectly justified in seeking to impose their version of truth on everyone else. But as Supreme Court Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes learned from his battle-field experiences in the Civil War, “certitude leads to violence.”

We have but one peaceful solution to the great challenges that beset us today. And that is to set aside our “certitudes;” to recognize that none of us is the exclusive carrier of TRUTH, that all of us carry our piece of the TRUTH; to do our best to look at the world through each other’s eyes; to join together and reason; to think long and hard about the issues we face and what success must look like for all of us; and to encourage continual experimentation in the knowledge that the evolving truth will, indeed, set us free … free from the passions and prejudices that limit our vision … free to form that ever-more perfect union envisioned by the founders.

As Emerson put it, it is not a matter of choosing sides. It is a matter of rising above the whole concept of sidedness.

I am hopeful that our generation of Americans will see the emergence of a new American majority … a “meta-faction” that rises above the whole concept of sidedness … a faction re-dedicated to the moral objectives of the Preamble … a faction committed to pragmatically meeting our challenges in a spirit of cooperation and consensus, and not in an ideological tyranny either of the right or left.

For here lie the blessings of freedom.

This new American majority will listen and empathize; it will replace lies, innuendos, and character assassination with honest dialogue about values, strategies and tactics; it will focus on substance and not form; it will seek to join us together, not divide us apart; it will recognize our own impositions of tyranny as quickly as we see tyranny in the actions of others; and it will extend Ronald Reagan’s 11th commandment to all Americans: “Americans shall not speak ill of one another.” Perhaps this new American majority will honor the founders by extending Reagan’s 11th commandment across the globe: “Humans shall not speak ill of one another.”

This must be the next great leap forward in the American democratic experiment or the increasing forces of chaos will surely drive us apart, just as they did in 1860. And where will be our Lincoln, holding not just America but the world together? We shall either hang together, or assuredly we shall all hang separately. New Orleans has proven that.

Let Freedom Ring.

Copyright © 2005. Stan Stahl. All Rights Reserved. Permission is granted to republish this essay in its entirety provided its source is identified asThe Agnostic Patriot at www.agnosticpatriot.org and this copyright is included.

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