What is the price of liberty?
To put it another way, what are we willing to pay for liberty?
Eternal vigilance, yes – especially once you have liberty. Once you have won that liberty, at whatever cost.
But what are YOU, what am I, willing to pay to get liberty in the first place?
The founding fathers clearly were willing to pay with their lives, their fortunes, and their sacred honor. The first two make sense to almost anyone. The third is often misunderstood. I understand it to mean that they were willing to be accused of being dishonored, and willing to do things viewed as dishonorable, in order to gain liberty and independence. Of course, they already HAD liberty, by their definition, even though it had been degraded by recent acts of the Crown and Parliament. They were fighting to keep it. What if they had been actually subject to a modern-day police state? If King George had really been a tyrant, an earlier version of Napoleon or Bismarck or the like? Would they have still pledged (and mostly lived by that pledge) as they did?
Hard questions. And harder answers. Especially for Americans in the year 2019.
What it really boils down to is the answer to a very simple question.
What are YOU willing to pay for liberty? Your own, and someone else’s? What am I?
That is not the only question, of course. Another, perhaps equally important one is “How much are you willing to make someone else pay for your freedom?”
Are we willing to die? To give up our “fortunes” (no matter how small or large that might be)? To be seen as dishonorable: despised, held up to ridicule, sacrificing family and friends, taking actions that we would previously rejected as dishonorable, even sinful?
But we must ask, are we willing to kill, maim, wound, or do other harm to people in order to gain or regain liberty? Not just in clear self-defense or direct defense of other people, but because those people pose a threat to our cause? Or even to shed innocent blood, whether it is “collateral damage” or those used as human shields by enemies?
These are not abstract questions, but questions that millions of people have been forced to answer over the centuries – not just answer but implement. It is ironic that sometimes the price paid for “Life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness” is all three of these things.
(originally published in The New Price of Liberty webzine, October 2019)
“The tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time with the blood of Patriots and Tyrants.” Thomas Jefferson. Not: it was Patriots first.