• 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, 2010

“We are in the very midst of revolution, the most complete, unexpected, and remarkable of any in the history of the world.”
John Adams
July, 1776

The Fourth of July parade. Oil City, Pennsylvania. A lot of years ago. Flags flying. Trumpets blaring.  Cymbals crashing. Fifes and drums playing. The High School marching band. The Oil City Downtown Business Association. Cub Scouts and Boy Scouts. Brownies and Girl Scouts. The city’s churches and its synagogue. The Rotary Club, the Elks and the Optimists. The American Legion and the VFW. Marching bands playing the songs of America – My country ‘tis of thee, sweet land of liberty. … Glory, glory hallelujah. His truth goes marching on. … Columbia the gem of the ocean. … Yankee doodle went to town. … And the caissons go marching along. … You’re a grand old flag. You’re a high flying flag. …  From the halls of Montezuma, to the shores of Tripoli. … Hurrah for the flag of the free. May it wave as our standard forever – a grand patriotic cacophony of song opening a young boy’s heart to the meaning of America.

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.
Declaration of Independence
July 4, 1776

In declaring our independence from England’s King George, the American Revolution was, in part, political. But it wasn’t the political revolution that moved the young boy; it was the moral revolution: all men and women are created equal. Swept away in one fell swoop was the notion that any one of us is created more equal than the rest. Not King George. Not his Ministers. Not you. Not me. Not anyone.

Four score and seven years later, Abraham Lincoln was to characterize the meaning of America in the great words of the Gettysburg Address: our fathers brought forth on this continent, a new nation, conceived in liberty and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.


In today’s culture wars, it’s hard to hear the meaning of America. The angry and insistent voices of the factions that make up today’s political landscape are like all the bands marching in the Independence Day parade of my youth, each playing its own patriotic song in its own key as loudly as it can in a vain attempt to drown out the other bands; each band convinced of its right to be more equal than others.

Most of the time we listen to the bands that play the songs that appeal to some mixture of our sense of America mixed in some proportion with what is, truth be told, our own self-interest. Most of the time, we don’t listen to the bands that aren’t playing our songs; the louder they play, the more we shut our ears to them. Study after study demonstrates human behavior being what it is, we listen to the arguments that support our conclusions while ignoring those that don’t.

Today, 234 years after the start of the American Revolution, let’s not focus on the band playing our music. Today is Independence Day, time for a revolution.

Today, let’s set aside our normal human behavior for a moment and listen to the entire ensemble of bands, listen to all the factions that make up modern America all at once, all together. When we do … when we listen very quietly … we hear something wondrous. We hear the sound of freedom, just like that young boy heard during that Independence Day parade many years ago.

In our arguments over the war on terror and our Afghan policy we hear the sound of freedom.

In our arguments over energy policy and off-shore drilling we hear the sound of freedom.

In our arguments over financial reform and economic policy we hear the sound of freedom.

In our arguments over gay rights and the balance between pro-choice and pro-life we hear the sound of freedom.

In our arguments over the meaning of the Constitution, over presidential power and the rule of law we hear the sound of freedom.

And in everything else we, the people, argue about, in all of it we hear the sound of freedom. After the sound of laughing children, it is perhaps the most beautiful of sounds.


Today is not the day to quarrel over America’s culture wars. Today is the day to celebrate that we, the people, are free to have culture wars. Today is the day to listen to all the voices, even those with which we disagree, rejoicing in our resonant discord.

Listen to our voice, the voice of America. That’s us we’re hearing, we, the people. Listen to the music we are making. Hear our reasoned analysis and our quiet prayers, our anger and our disrespect. Hear our hearts and our dreams, our fears and our joys, our loves and our hates, our hopes for the future and our broken hearts for the past. Hear in our voices our sense of right and wrong, of liberty and justice, and our relationship to our God or whatever.

Be proud of this voice, for it is the voice of a free people, alive to the challenges of today and the promises of tomorrow. Be proud of this voice that we hear in the grand discord that is America’s culture wars. That’s our voice we hear, we, the people, governing ourselves as best we can just like we’ve been doing for 234 years. Listen and be proud, grateful to the founders for bequeathing the blessings of liberty to us and committed to bequeathing these same blessings to those generations yet unborn


There is a truth that emerges in the stillness, when we listen quietly to the sound of freedom, to our 234 year argument with ourselves over the meaning of our creed and how it is best reflected in our government: 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. 

The simple truth that emerges in the quiet stillness is that this is what government of the people, by the people and for the people sounds like: a messy discordant atonal arrhythmic cacophony, the voice of we, the people.

We have always been, we are now and we will always be the argument as, we, the people meet our challenges. The culture wars are the very chords and rhythms of freedom.

So tomorrow, when we go back to whichever side of the culture wars we happen to be on, let us commit to doing so with a spirit of tolerance and cooperation, a spirit that recognizes that all are created equal, so that we may continue the revolution, the most complete, unexpected, and remarkable of any in the history of the world.

Let freedom ring.

Copyright © 2010. 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.

Get these essays sent to you by email:

Speak Your Mind