L. Neil Smith's
THE LIBERTARIAN ENTERPRISE
Number 181, July 8, 2002
WHAT FREEDOMS ARE LEFT?
Special to TLE
On July 4th, we celebrate the individuals who declared it to be a self-evident truth that all people have the right to breathe free. We celebrate people who considered it their natural right to break the political bonds which had united them with others, when those bonds became, in their opinion, destructive of the ends of liberty and justice.
In recent weeks, many Americans have decried a decision by a ninth circuit court which held that the state cannot force schoolchildren to affirm a belief in a monotheistic sky god. The reason, according to the court is that the when the state compels attendance to a government training center and then directs its agent to lead a chant, that state actions amounts to an impermissible governmental support of a particular religion, namely judeo-christian monotheism.
The decision is a well reasoned legal opinion. That is, it is based upon and consistent with previous legal decisions. However, there is a problem with it. It does not go far enough.
The ruling says that it is unconstitutional for the state to create an oath which requires schoolchildren to affirm certain precepts of religion. It does not say that requiring schoolchildren to pledge allegiance to a flag is an unconstitutional imposition of political belief. Did not the founding fathers refuse to swear allegiance to a particular political body, when they believed it did not serve the ends of liberty and justice? Was not the first truly American act a refusal to swear allegiance to a political body? Is not the central tenet of the Declaration of Independence that political bonds are transitory, but man's allegiance to his own freedom is immutable?
If we recognize that the founding fathers are heroes, is it not heroic to refuse your assent to laws and governments which you find destructive of the ends of liberty and justice? Whether or not you find the current American government to be despotic; isn't it the height of folly to proclaim your allegiance to a particular transient political order and not to the immutable concepts of liberty and justice.
If history has taught us nothing, and that is exactly what it has taught most Americans, it has taught that the motive force of the world is the desire of individuals to risk their lives, fortunes, and sacred honor to take just one free breath. In the wake of freedom's tide, lay the remnants of empires and nations previously thought glorious and "indivisible".
When American children are taught, through compulsory recitation, that the flag and the republic for which it stands is immutable, that the flag and that republic define and embody liberty and justice for all, it creates a mental hurdle they must jump in order to recognize the true state of reality. It is not a flag which is the embodiment of liberty. It is not a nation, which is a republic in name only, to which one owes allegiance.
That flag is a symbol. It is a symbol of those who knew that freedom was immutable, that governments were at best a necessary evil, that from time to time the tree of liberty must be refreshed with the blood of patriots and tyrants. It is a symbol of the self-evident truth that no government however conceived and no matter how many great acts in defense of liberty were done in her name, can claim those heroic acts as her own. The allegiance, the reverence is due those who had acted in defense of liberty. The flag can never claim to be itself worthy of reverence. It can only serve as a symbol, a convenient medium and repository for the reverence and allegiance all decent individuals owe those who have risked and given their lives in defense of freedom.
Do not be confused into believing that because your grandfather, your father, or your sister fought under the American flag, that you owe an allegiance to that flag or to whatever form of government now claims that flag. Your allegiance and reverence is owed to those individuals who have fought for freedom. That is why on this day,
The meaning of "Freedom's Pledge" is immutable. It will not change with each new governmental regime. I cannot say that I will always be able to support what it is this republic stands for. But, I know on this day, and for each day forward, I will be able to proudly proclaim my reverence for those who have fought and died for freedom and for those who have shouted the self-evident truths which no one else would dare say.