For freedom's sake, Prometheus paid the price
Prometheus gave fire to mankind, so that we would be as gods.
Fearful of the dangers that the resulting civilization possessed, of mankind unfettered, Zeus, king of the heavens, punished Prometheus, subjecting him to a torment of endless slaughter, to be killed again and again and again for all time.
Such is the price he paid for our liberty.
In our own time, the American nation has nurtured that flame of liberty, striking it unsteadily, but lifting it high enough to illuminate a nation founded upon a singular theory—that through individual freedom, societal greatness can be achieved.
Look at how we've grown! Our cities tower as high as mountains! All the world recognizes our power and justice. We have wealth, abundance and power. The well-watered seeds of liberty have blossomed into a fine garden, upon which the sun is honored to shine.
That garden may at times become overgrown, however, possessed of weeds or simply overburdened by its own largess. There a touch of liberty's flame is needed.
It is why we have elected officials, who rotate out after fixed years. It is why we do not elect presidents for life and, in fact, would balk at the notion. Freedom is renewal, a clear stream rushing down a mountainside.
A river which doesn't flow dams itself.
Yet in our history we forget this. As this nation has faced various challenges over its years, we have consistently responded to them by punishing ourselves. As Zeus feared Prometheus' flame so too do we, it seems, fear our own liberty. At the turn of the last century, we found political corruption in bed with alcohol manufacturing. Rather than cut out that corruption, we instead thought to starve it by banning drink. The Prohibition of alcohol resulted in a massive loss of tax revenue and, worse, the unforeseen emergence of violent, organized and ruthless criminal cartels, who terrorized and corrupted citizens and law enforcement for decades.
In response to challenges, the American public paradoxically seeks to bind its own working hands. We think to help people by limiting their freedom—we pervert our very philosophy, suggesting that we are wrong to protect our inherent rights.
Now, in the wake of violence, we see renewed interest in binding our hands, even going so far as to repeal a foundational recognition of an inherent right. Even though our latest attempt at Prohibition, the War on Drugs, has left our southern neighbor desolated by criminal organizations and has resulted in the corruption of our institutions, the incarceration of our populace, countless dollars spent—and still we have a drug problem.
Somehow, I don't think a War on Guns would be any more effective.
We, the people, are not all bound to one another's sins. Collectively, we may at times be foolish, but individually, we are capable of much greatness. This nation, and all of its states, should ever be dedicated to the enduring experiment of nurturing that potential greatness in our children, hopefully along with a sense of moral character, decency and justice.
Benjamin Franklin once said "Those who would give up essential Liberty, to purchase a little temporary Safety, deserve neither Liberty nor Safety." These words were not uttered in a lofty fashion, but were likely just a simple flourish of Franklin's wit, yet they speak volumes to the attitudes which birthed this nation.
We speak often of the bloody price of freedom, and this is well and good ever to remember—yet there is another tax upon liberty that requires not bloodshed, but vigilance. We, the common citizens, have a duty as well—a duty to inform ourselves, to insist upon our freedoms, to remain educated and clear of vision as we elevate those among us to be the representatives of our collective will. We must be willing and able to vote out those who would betray our trust and to trust those who would lead us forward.
We cannot allow ourselves to abandon more of our freedom—in fact, we ought insist we have more afforded us, recognizing that the fires of our civilization have grown to shining heights and we can provide more for ourselves than ever imagined hundreds of years ago.
The people of this country are not its burden, we are its greatest resource. We should not convict ourselves of crimes we did not commit. Our rights are not given to us, they are ours by default—it is the duty of this government to protect and honor those rights, from whomsoever might seek to take them.
We have allowed ourselves to lose much in the name of security in recent decades. It is, in my mind, a poor way to honor those who paid the ultimate price so that we keep our freedoms to simply give them freely away.