“All great things are simple, and many can be expressed in single words; freedom, justice, honor, duty, mercy, hope.” Sir Winston Churchill
In this day of seemingly ever increasing complexities and apparently irresolvable, dangerous issues at all levels of human activity, I propose we consider Sir Winston’s observation. After all he did experience and overcome two world wars and a world wide economic depression. He persevered a time when tens of millions of our human kind were dying from the clashing of armies, wide spread hunger and the savage domestic policies of dictators such as Hitler, Stalin and Mao. So beyond the pale of human experience were these atrocities that the word “genocide” had not yet appeared. You will not find genocide in Webster’s classic 1824 edition nor as late as the 1944 edition.
America was the first nation in history where individual freedom began to be experienced to any degree and have those freedoms enumerated and guaranteed by a Constitution and Bill of Rights. In 1776 individual freedom was viewed as such a great thing that many were willing to risk it all…lives, fortunes and sacred honor…for this one simple word. Indeed, individual freedom is a great thing.
We well remember Patrick Henry’s famous speech to the Virginia House of Burgesses in March of 1775, “Give me liberty or give me death”, whose theme so powerfully influenced opinion throughout the 13 colonies. In the months leading up to July 4, 1776, many colonist began to see themselves as “Americans” and began to believe strongly that the right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness were endowments from God. As Jefferson would later say…“The God who gave us life gave us liberty at the same time”. Many colonists came to openly identify with the phrase live free or die. Since then our history as a people has unfolded in such a manner as to demonstrate how the greatness and strength that individual freedom, produced within our borders, enabled American power to liberate tens of millions well beyond our borders.
All great things are simple and without these “great things” it does not really matter how many toys you have collected, achievements you have amassed, or even nations you have conquered. There can be no enduring greatness in a people where justice is rationed, witness the demise of countless tyrants throughout history.
Our Constitution established a republic where every citizen had a representative in the legislature and a court system where there was “equal justice under the law.” To establish these noble precepts as a reality: American soil would become saturated with the blood of over 625,000 Americans 1861-1865; the 19th Amendment would need to be ratified in 1920 giving women voting rights; and Native Americans would need to be given citizenship in 1924 and voting rights in 1968. Justice for all is more that an artful phrase, it is a great thing, but yet a simple thing not easily attained.
All great things are simple and you can undoubtedly add some words to Sir Winston’s list. Faith, courage, trust and humility come to my mind as I ponder the subject. The other four he gave us…honor, duty, mercy, and hope, are well worthy of our thoughtful consideration in 2012.
As we have briefly discussed freedom and justice we are reminded that they truly are great precepts that require a great passion in the heart of a great people to become a simple reality. Consider this quote from Thomas Jefferson… “Experience hath shewn, that even under the best forms (of government) those entrusted with power have, in time, and by slow operations, have perverted it into tyranny.” Sound familiar?
We the people of this generation of Americans must step up and be the delivery system for these inviolate, simple precepts proffered by Sir Winston for them to be the great realities in our day. Jefferson also observed that…“Timid men prefer the calm of despotism to the tempestuous sea of liberty” and that…“Government big enough to supply everything you need is big enough to take everything you have…the course of history shows that as government grows, liberty decreases.” Over the past few years we have witnessed the profound accuracy of Mr. Jefferson’s poignant insight into unchecked human behavior.
When I seriously reflect upon Sir Winston’s observation, word by word, I become more aware of the relevance of my own faith in God as well as more focused on my duty as a patriot. I am reminded of General George Washington’s words to his troops on this subject: While we are zealously performing the duties of good Citizens and soldiers we certainly ought no to be inattentive to the higher duties of Religion. To the distinguished Character of Patriot it should be our highest Glory to add the more distinguished Character of Christian. General Orders, Head Quarters, Valley Forge, May 2, 1778.
The year 2012 is not the time to be a spectator in American life, much is on the table and much hangs in the balance. During the Revolutionary War roughly one third of the colonists were patriots. I do not know what percentage of Americans will take a stand for liberty in 2012 but I plan to tell my grandchildren of the challenges and adventures I had in doing just that, regardless of the outcome. All great things are indeed simple!
“What country can preserve its liberties if its rulers are not warned from time to time that their people preserve the spirit of resistance?” Thomas Jefferson