• 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

Independence Day, 2008

We live, my dear soul, in an age of trial.
What will be the consequence, I know not.
John Adams to Abigail Adams, 1774

It was a cold winter day in January, 1776 when John Adams left his home in Braintree, Massachusetts for Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. He was one of 56 delegates to the 2nd Continental Congress made up of the British colonies in America. Six months later, they changed the world forever.

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. — That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed.

Declaration of Independence
July 4, 1776

How audacious of them, these colonists, our forefathers! To think they had rights! To George III, the colonists had no rights, except to pay taxes and do what they were told. To George III, the British government existed to serve his ends. Those he ruled had no say in the matter.

How could it be otherwise? He was the King and being the ruler was his divine right.

But otherwise it was to be, as America stood tall in its first battle for freedom, to win for us the blessings of liberty.

It took John Adams two weeks to ride from Braintree to Philadelphia. Last month Rita and I flew to South Africa — nearly half-way around the world — in less than two days. The world has gotten a whole lot smaller in the 232 years since our founding. It’s also gotten a whole lot freer.

Rita and I were in Cape Town, South Africa on the night the world celebrated Nelson Mandela’s 90th birthday. We felt proud in the knowledge that there is a straight line from Adams and Jefferson and Washington and the other founders right to Nelson Mandela.

In Soweto, we witnessed the emergence of a black South African middle-class out of the evils of Apartheid. Over dinner with black friends in Johannesburg we saw in their faces the sweet blessings of liberty.

At a visit to a pre-school in a poor South African village not far from Kruger National Park we met 15 children along with their teachers. The pre-school brings literacy to 150 children in the village, giving them opportunity where before there was none. Their funding comes entirely from private donations and 90% of the donations come from Americans — another straight line from the founders as America so generously shares the blessings of liberty with others less fortunate.

Yes the world has gotten a whole lot freer since our founding … and the blessings of liberty are becoming ever-more manifest around our shrinking globe. But the world’s also gotten a whole lot more challenging in the last 232 years.

These are the times that try men’s souls.
Thomas Paine, 1776

Unemployment in South Africa is estimated as high as 50%. The new million-dollar homes in Soweto overlook the poor shacks that too many still live in. Eight hundred South Africans a day are said to die of AIDS. And the South African middle-class — both black and white — is very concerned about the effect America’s economy is having on their economy.

While in Zambia at Victoria Falls, Rita and I crossed the bridge into Zimbabwe where Robert Mugabe acts like the reincarnation of George III. Mugabe’s iron-rule in Zimbabwe is part of the karma of Colonialism. There are few blessings of liberty to be found in Zimbabwe.

And where are the blessings of liberty in North Korea? Or Iran? Or even among our allies in Saudi Arabia and Egypt? What few blessings of liberty one finds in Pakistan and Afghanistan are under attack by resurgent Taliban and Al Quada.

And here at home, we find our own blessings of liberty being eroded by $4.50 a gallon gasoline, high food prices, and the continued winding down of the sub-prime mortgage crisis; by the lack of an integrated energy policy; by an out of control health care system; and, of course, by the Iraq war.

Today on the 232nd anniversary of our founding freedoms, America—our America—the America that has given so much to us and so much to the world—is beset with challenges different than any we have ever faced.

Fellow-citizens we cannot escape history. We … will be remembered in spite of ourselves. … The fiery trial through which we pass, will light us down, in honor or dishonor, to the latest generation.
Abraham Lincoln, 1862

During the darkest days of the Civil War, Lincoln understood that either America would make history or history would be made for us. In saving the Union, America made history and government of the people, by the people, for the people did not perish from the Earth.

It is now our time to make history. The torch has been passed to our generation. It falls to us—we, the people—to take the wisdom that is our legacy and apply it to meet the challenges of today.

In July, 1945, President Harry Truman spoke at the raising of the American flag in Berlin. It was the same flag that had flown over the Capitol in Washington on December 7, 1941, the day Pearl Harbor was attacked. “What might easily have been made a routine patriotic display,” wrote Raymond Daniell of The New York Times, “… was turned into a historic occasion by the President’s simple, homely declaration of the faith that had sent millions of American boys into battle.”

We are here today to raise the flag of victory over the capital of our greatest adversary. In doing that, we must remember that in raising that flag we are raising it in the name of the people of the United States, who are looking forward to a better world, a peaceful world, a world in which all the people will have an opportunity to enjoy the good things of life, and not just a few at the top.

Let us not forget that we are fighting for peace, and for the welfare of mankind. We are not fighting for conquest. There is not one piece of territory, or one thing of a monetary nature that we want out of this war. We want peace and prosperity for the world as a whole. We want to see the time come when we can do the things in peace that we have been able to do in war.

If we can put this tremendous machine of ours, which has made this victory possible, to work for peace we can look forward to the greatest age in the history of mankind. That is what we propose to do.

As we raise the flag celebrating 232 years of freedom — 232 years of the blessings of liberty — let us have faith in the great ideals of the founders and of the giants upon whose shoulders we stand.

On this 232nd anniversary of our founding, let us rededicate ourselves to the ideals that are our legacy, securing the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity.

Let freedom ring.

Copyright © 2008. 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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