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  Defender of Liberty

   by Sugi Sorensen

  "We mutually pledge to each other our lives, our fortunes, and our sacred honour."
    -- Declaration of Independence (1776)

Now why would a group of men pledge their lives, their families, their property, and their honor to an abstract principle? The founding fathers of the United States of America did so because without it life was not worth living. To live free is the natural born right of every human being on Earth. And the antithesis of that, which is to live without freedom under the rule of another, is intolerable. The absence of freedom has many names -- slavery, oppression, tyranny. And worse still, it has consequences. The absence of individual liberty leads to the concentration of power. Power is the potential to use force -- the possession of control, authority, or influence over others. Any concentration of that power is potentially lethal. And man, animal that he is, has repeatedly shown his inability to control the use of force, as Lord Acton so astutely observed in his dictum "Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power tends to corrupt absolutely."

  "I have sworn upon the altar of God, eternal hostility against every form of tyranny over the mind of man."
    -- Thomas Jefferson
  "They that can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety."
    -- Benjamin Franklin

Today these would seem the words of paranoid men. Yet a quick review of human history shows us that man's progress has come at a terrible price. While knowledge and technology have enabled us to cure diseases, prolong life, and generally prosper, they have also enabled us to kill each other with greater magnitude and efficiency. Consider that prior to the 20th Century, only 130 million people are estimated to have been killed by their own governments (a term noted scholar and historian R.J. Rummel calls democide.) In the 20th century, the number of people killed by their own governments swelled to an estimated 170 million people. Thus in one century human beings succeeded in killing more of their own than in all previous centuries combined. This is not a record that bodes well for mankind.

With murder as the ultimate price of freedom lost, it becomes clear that we must make a concerted attempt to solve the problem of self-extinction. We must prevent the conditions from occuring which enable such mass slaughter. The solution turns out to be quite simple -- freedom. People who are free do not kill each other as often as those who are not free. Countries which are free until recently never waged war on other free countries. The fact that no democracy had waged war on another until the US intervention in Yugoslavia can be considered a miracle. And the fact that the United States became the first country to break that miraculous string is even more disturbing. Even in the country that gave birth to democracy it is possible to ignore the lessons of power abused.

That human beings as a species must remain ever vigilant against tyranny and the conditions that allow it is a lesson that was not lost on the founders of the United States. It is tragic that the lesson is completely lost on most of the inhabitants of the United States a scant two-hundred-twenty years later.

The necessity for mankind as a species to safeguard liberty from those who would take it away translates to a responsibility for every man and woman as individual human beings to do the same. As Benjamin Franklin remarked, to voluntarily surrender liberty to gain security is both dangerous and contemptible. That is why I am a Defender of Liberty and, like Thomas Jefferson, I shall remain so until the day I die.