• 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

Passover, 2006

Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!

Emma Lazarus
The Statue of Liberty

In the Fall of 1903, a few months before his 17th birthday, my Grandfather, Herman Louis Stahl, arrived in America from his home in Lithuania. Eighteen years later, David and Gladys Mermelstein, arrived here from Czechoslovakia with their 1½ year old daughter, Perle, who, 22 years later was to become my mother.

My grandparents came to America because here they could ‘breathe free;’ here they could escape oppression; here they could find opportunity. Having been born in the land of the free I can but only imagine the overwhelming joy they must have felt when they first set eyes upon that welcoming lady in New York harbor.

Thirty five hundred years ago with the Exodus from Egypt my ancestors discovered the very concept of freedom. The story of their struggle for freedom is one that my people continue to tell every year at Passover. Every year at Passover parents are instructed to tell the story of the Exodus as if we ourselves were part of that original exodus, as if we had emerged from the darkness of slavery into the bright light of freedom.

America’s own struggle for freedom extended and amplified the struggle of these early Jews. The words of our Declaration – We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness – reflect the universal yearning of all people to be free just as they reflect the great gift of freedom that my ancestors and the founders gave to the world.

I have been incredibly touched the last two weeks as I have watched demonstrations in cities throughout America by immigrants asserting their right to be free. Millions of people exercising their rights, as embodied in the first amendment, to peacefully assemble, to speak freely, and to petition their government. Millions of people who have come to America yearning to taste the blessings of liberty just as my grandparents did.

Freedom, as the founders so well understood, has two vital characteristics. First, of course, is that it is our unalienable right to be free. Freedom comes not from government. Freedom is our inherent right. We are endowed with it. Government can neither give it nor can government take it away.

But freedom has a second characteristic as well, a characteristic the founders reflected in the Preamble to our Constitution. With freedom comes the Blessings of Liberty. With freedom comes the opportunity for what scientists call increasing returns. Free men and women independently pursuing their own interests create more for all. In the land of the free one plus one can actually equal three.

There is an Eskimo saying that the best place to store your excess food is in the belly of your neighbor. That way when your neighbor has a food surplus, he’ll be induced to store it in your belly. Sharing food leads to working cooperatively together. Soon, bigger game can be hunted. Through their shared interdependence everyone thrives. One plus one equals three.

This is the lesson that those who oppose today’s generation of immigrants don’t yet understand. Too many of those opposed to today’s immigrants see the world as a place of scarcity: the pie is only so big and if nothing is done about the “immigrant problem” I and my family will have less.

It saddens me that too many Americans – all of us the sons and daughters of immigrants – have not been taught the fundamental truth of the blessings of liberty, that by working cooperatively together we make the pie bigger for all.

This is not to say that our borders should be open to all. We have a legitimate need to keep out criminals, terrorists and others who would use their freedom to deny it to others. We must also limit immigration to a number that the economy can absorb, recognizing that there are short-term economic costs that, if we are not intelligent, might overwhelm the longer term economic benefits.

This is a time not for demagoguery but for leadership and an increase in opportunity. Leadership so Americans everywhere can come to know and understand the blessings of liberty. And opportunity so that no one gets left behind, so that all are blessed.

The Bible tells the story of Abraham being visited by strangers and how he opened his tents to them, welcoming them and sharing with them his meager resources. It turned out that the visitors were Angels and Abraham was blessed for his generosity. Abraham, like the founders, understood the blessings of liberty, understood that the strangers in our midst are angels, understood the value of storing his surplus food in their bellies, understood how one plus one can be three.

Willie Nelson sings a song that begins miracles occur in the strangest of places. We live – miraculously – on this strange little planet in an incredibly large Universe containing billions of stars. We have been blessed – miraculously – with self-awareness and love and the conception of a greater good. We have discovered – again miraculously – freedom and the infinite blessings that come to those who freely cooperate for their own and the greater good.

And now we stand at the crossroads. Do we let our fears blind us to our opportunities, perhaps even destroying the very miracle of our existence? Or do we open our hearts and our minds to the infinite possibilities that the miracle of our existence offers us? Do we return to Egypt, slaves to our fears? Or do we walk confidently to the Promised Land?

Let Freedom Ring.

Copyright © 2006. 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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