It’s Memorial Day Weekend
Traditionally, Memorial Day opens the gates to summer: barbeques, beaches and bathing suits, concerts. But this holiday (holy day) is so much more than summer fun. Since we are obligated to honor those countless men and women who made the ultimate sacrifice, shouldn’t we think about the cost of freedom? It’s Memorial Day weekend.
Memorial Day’s beginning was, fittingly, during the Civil War. According to the Library of Congress, southern women decorated the graves of dead soldiers long before the war’s end. June 1, 1861 may be the first such grave to be decorated in Warrenton, Virginia. In fact though, more than twenty-five cities lay claim to being the originator of Memorial Day or Decoration Day.
So, yes. Amidst the hamburgers, ribs, chips and beer, maybe we can fit in reflection and honor to those men and women who died for this country of ours.
On that note, it is impossible to ponder those who gave their lives for the American ideal without returning to the origin: the Civil War knowing full well we cannot do that.
No writer’s vivid imagination can approach even a conception of those four blood-soaked years for those who lived and died in them.
But one man did. He wrote, prayed, and spoke
With characteristic brevity.
Abraham Lincoln’s Gettysberg Address seems, at least momentarily, to plunge deeply through the woke inanity of these current days. Sobering us up with words whose heft need no superlatives, emoticons or modifiers.
Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth upon this continent, a new nation, conceived in Liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.
Now we are engaged in a great civil war, testing whether that nation, or any nation so conceived and so dedicated, can long endure. We are met on a great battle-field of that war. We have come to dedicate a portion of that field, as a final resting place for those who here gave their lives that that nation might live. It is altogether fitting and proper that we should do this. But, in a larger sense, we can not dedicate—we can not consecrate—we can not hallow—this ground. The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here, have consecrated it, far above our poor power to add or detract. The world will little note, nor long remember what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here. It is for us the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced. It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us—that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion—that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain—that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom—and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.
A new birth of freedom…
It’s Memorial Day Weekend- Shouldn’t we think about the cost of freedom?
To do so, we must define it. Webster defines freedom as the “state of being at liberty rather than in confinement or physical restraint.” The majority of us-liberal, conservative, and progressive alike, would accept that definition. But since secularism has taken hold of our government and courts, the American conception notion of freedom has been uncoupled from Judeo-Christian law and morality.
The finest explanation of that fact and its horrific consequences is in a speech given by then Attorney General William Barr at Notre Dame Law School. A speech which was castigated by secular and religious pundits alike. A speech I liked so much that I read it six times.
It’s Memorial Day Weekend-Shouldn’t we think about the cost of freedom?
Barr’s opening words beg for reflection:
“In his renowned 1785 pamphlet, “Memorial and Remonstrance Against Religious Assessments,” James Madison described religious liberty as “a right towards men” but “a duty towards the Creator,” and a “duty….precedent both in order of time and degree of obligation, to the claims of Civil Society.”
It has been over 230 years since that small group of colonial lawyers led a revolution and launched what they viewed as a great experiment, establishing a society fundamentally different than those that had gone before.
They crafted a magnificent charter of freedom – the United States Constitution – which provides for limited government, while leaving “the People” broadly at liberty to pursue our lives both as individuals and through free associations.
This quantum leap in liberty has been the mainspring of unprecedented human progress, not only for Americans, but for people around the world…Attorney General Remarks
It’s a long speech but jam-packed with excellent points
In an article written two years ago, I selected a few of Barr’s comprehensive and I think, brilliant analysis. (the italics are mine.)
Here they are again.
- The framers of the constitution ” never thought the main danger to the republic came from external foes. The central question was whether, over the long haul, we could handle freedom. The question was whether the citizens in such a free society could maintain the moral discipline and virtue necessary for the survival of free institutions. Edmund Burke summed up this point in his typically colorful language.
- “Men are qualified for civil liberty, in exact proportion to their disposition to put chains upon their appetites…. Society cannot exist unless a controlling power be placed somewhere; and the less of it there is within, the more there must be without. It is ordained in the eternal constitution of things that men of intemperate minds cannot be free. Their passions forge their fetters.”
- So the Founders decided to take a gamble. They called it a great experiment.
- They would leave “the People” broad liberty, limit the coercive power of the government, and place their trust in self-discipline and the virtue of the American people.
In the words of Madison, “We have staked our future on the ability of each of us to govern ourselves…”
- This is really what was meant by “self-government.” It did not mean primarily the mechanics by which we select a representative legislative body. It referred to the capacity of each individual to restrain and govern themselves.
- In short, in the Framers’ view, free government was only suitable and sustainable for a religious people – a people who recognized that there was a transcendent moral order antecedent to both the state and man-made law and who had the discipline to control themselves according to those enduring principles.
- As John Adams put it, “We have no government armed with the power which is capable of contending with human passions unbridled by morality and religion. Our Constitution was made only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate for the government of any other.”
Barr explicity details the consequences of secularism
in our society, specifically the family. And then to the ‘state solutions’, excellent material but too extensive to repost in this piece. Instead, when reflecting on those so-called solutions, I think of Job’s (the Liturgy of the Hours Reading for Friday) reply to his friend Zophar’s claim that the source of all Job’s suffering is sin:
Doubtless you are the voice of the people
And when you die, wisdom will die with you!
I can reflect as deeply as ever you can,
in no way am I inferior to you.
And who, for that matter has not observed as much?
A man becomes a laughing stock to his friends
if he cries to God and expects as answer.
The blameless innocent incurs only mockery….
With him are strength and prudence
the misled and the misleaders are his.
He sends counselors away barefoot,
and of judges he makes fools,
He siliences the trusted advisor,
and takes discretion from the aged.
Barr’s entire speech is worth a read, if you would like to do so, click here:
It’s Memorial Day Weekend- Shouldn’t We Think About the Cost of Freedom?