• 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, 2015

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

Supreme Court rules gay couples nationwide have a right to marry. “A deeply divided Supreme Court on Friday delivered a historic victory for gay rights, ruling 5 to 4 that the Constitution requires that same-sex couples be allowed to marry no matter where they live.” The Washington Post, June 26, 2015.

 Today is some of the darkest 24 hours in our nation’s historyThis radical decision purporting to strike the marriage laws of every state. It has no connection to the United States Constitution.
Ted Cruz
United States Senator

 This ruling is a victory for America … We can say in no uncertain terms that we’ve made our union a little more perfect.
Barack Obama
United States President

So which is it? Our darkest hour? Or a victory for America?

Hasn’t the Court’s decision constrained one side’s ‘pursuit of happiness’? But then wouldn’t the opposite decision — that there is no right to marry — have constrained the other side’s ‘pursuit of their happiness’?

Have we reached the point where my ‘pursuit of happiness’ necessarily infringes on your ‘pursuit of happiness’?

Are the words of the Declaration just that – ‘words’ — having no realistic possibility that we can in fact all be free to pursue our own version of happiness? Is the Declaration of Independence simply a collection of idealistic words, completely devoid of any practical meaning?

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

Are these not also just words, platitudes on a piece of paper? In a country as divided as we are, whose rights are government to secure?

Is government to secure the rights of those who take the view that marriage is between a man and a woman or is it to secure the rights of those who believe that marriage is between two people, regardless of their sex?

Government can’t do both. Securing the rights of one faction necessitates failing to secure the rights of the other faction. Government perhaps can balance these rights; it cannot secure both.


Out beyond ideas of wrongdoing and rightdoing, there is a field.
I’ll meet you there.
13th Century Poet and Mystic

The day of the Supreme Court’s marriage decision, I was copied on an email my cousin sent to my married lesbian sister. “Joyful ruling! Thinking of you and your courage. Much love.” As this email made its way around my family with everyone replying with their own positive affirmations, one could feel the profound joy in their hearts; the American dream was working.

Yesterday I received an email from a colleague, a respected attorney I have known for over a decade. Like my cousin, he has a deep and abiding love of America and our values. His email though was very different from my cousin’s. His email was of an America that isn’t working. Reading his words we are experiencing an erosion in values and a departure from common sense, I could feel the profound sadness in his heart. The America that he knows and loves is being turned upside down. His American dream is being turned into a nightmare.

Two good people with good hearts. One heart experiencing great joy. Another filled with great sadness.


We are not enemies but friends.
Abraham Lincoln

In replying to our cousin’s email, my sister wrote “I like that this is what has occurred and I am sad for all of the people who are enraged by it.”

Here lies the nugget of wisdom that is the wellspring of the Declaration. The spirit of liberty lives in the heart, not on a 239 year old piece of paper.

The spirit of liberty was portrayed by Judge Learned Hand in an Independence Day speech he gave in 1944 as the spirit which weighs the interests of others alongside its own without bias.

The spirit of liberty is the sadness for others in the midst of our own joy; the profound recognition that liberty isn’t about winning and losing, it’s about living together despite our vast differences. It is about finding opportunities for the heart to connect. E Pluribus Unum. From many, one.

The spirit of liberty — that we are all endowed with inalienable rights — lives in the human heart. The spirit of liberty is the near-mystical realization that life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness work for one if and only if they work for all. To the extent we are not all free, then none of us is free. Our liberty is intertwined.

It is the spirit of liberty that says “Let us sit down together as free men and women and discuss our differences. Let us become friends, sharing our lives and our hearts. Let us feel each other’s joys and our sorrows.”

It is here —in the spirit which weighs the interests of others alongside its own without bias—that the blessings of liberty manifest.

It is the spirit of liberty we celebrate today on the 239th anniversary of our Declaration of Independence. It is the spirit of liberty that the founders bequeathed to us and it is the spirit of liberty that we must pass on to our children.

So let us take this Independence Day as the opportunity to celebrate our own freedoms while also feeling the sadness of those who feel their freedoms under attack.

If, like me, you are joyful in the Court’s gay marriage decision, please take today as an opportunity to feel the sadness of the good men and women on the other side, to weigh their interests alongside your own without bias.

And if you are saddened by the Court’s decision, I invite you to open your heart to the joy felt by the good men and women still struggling to live free, 239 years after the Declaration, weighing their interests alongside your own without bias.

Let freedom ring.



Copyright © 2015. 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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