Imprimis: Freedom and Obligation

The excerpt below comes from a commencement address given by Associate Justice Clarence Thomas at Hillsdale College back in 2016. In order to have liberty our freedom must be tempered by the duties and responsibilities that we have.

…In my youth, we had a small farm. I am convinced that the time I spent there had much to do with my firm resolve never to farm again. Work seemed to spring eternal, like the weeds that consumed so much of our time and efforts. One of the messages constantly conveyed in those days was our obligation to take care of the land and to use it to produce food for ourselves and for others. If there was to be independence, self-sufficiency, or freedom, then we first had to understand, accept, and discharge our responsibilities. The latter were the necessary (but not always sufficient) antecedents or precursors of the former. The only guarantee was that if you did not discharge your responsibilities, there could be no independence, no self-sufficiency, and no freedom.

In a broader context, we were obligated in our neighborhood to be good neighbors so that the neighborhood would thrive. Whether there was to be a clean, thriving neighborhood was directly connected to our efforts. So there was always, to our way of thinking, a connection between the things we valued most and our personal obligations or efforts. There could be no freedom without each of us discharging our responsibilities. When we heard the words duty, honor, and country, no more needed to be said. But that is a bygone era. Today, we rarely hear of our personal responsibilities in discussions of broad notions such as freedom or liberty. It is as though freedom and liberty exist wholly independent of anything we do, as if they are predestined…

America’s Founders and many successive generations believed in natural rights. To establish a government based on the consent of the governed, as the Declaration of Independence makes clear, they gave up only that portion of their rights necessary to create a limited government of the kind needed to secure all of their rights. The Founders then structured that government so that it could not jeopardize the liberty that flowed from natural rights. Even though this liberty is inherent, it is not guaranteed. Indeed, the founding documents of our country are an assertion of this liberty against the King of England—arguably the most powerful man in the world at the time—at the risk of the Founders’ lives, fortunes, and sacred honor. Over the lifespan of our great country, many occasions have arisen that required this liberty, and the form of government that ensures it, to be defended if it was to survive.

At the risk of understating what is necessary to preserve liberty and our form of government, I think more and more that it depends on good citizens discharging their daily duties and obligations…

Today, when it seems that grievance rather than responsibility is the main means of elevation, my grandfather’s beliefs may sound odd or discordant. But he and others like him at the time resolved to conduct themselves in a way consistent with America’s ideals. They were law-abiding, hardworking, and disciplined. They discharged their responsibilities to their families and neighbors as best they could. They taught us that despite unfair treatment, we were to be good citizens and good people. If we were to have a functioning neighborhood, we first had to be good neighbors. If we were to have a good city, state, and country, we first had to be good citizens. The same went for our school and our church. We were to keep in mind the corporal works of mercy and the great commandment: “Love thy neighbor as thyself.” Being wronged by others did not justify reciprocal conduct. Right was right, and two wrongs did not make a right. What we wanted to do did not define what was right—nor, I might add, did our capacious litany of wants define liberty. Rather, what was right defined what we were required to do and what we were permitted to do. It defined our duties and our responsibilities. Whether those duties meant cutting our neighbor’s lawn, visiting the sick, feeding the hungry, or going off to war as my brother did, we were to discharge them honorably…

if we continue to consume the benefits of a free society without replenishing or nourishing that society, we will eventually deplete that as well.  If we are content to let others do the  work of replenishing and defending liberty while we consume the benefits, we will someday run out of other people’s willingness to sacrifice—or even out of courageous people willing to make the sacrifice…

Click here to read the entire article at Imprimis.

City Journal: The Knife Went In

City Journal recently reprinted an article from 1994 in their Spring 2019 issue, The Knife Went In by Theodore Dalrymple.

It is a mistake to suppose that all men, or at least all Englishmen, want to be free. On the contrary, if freedom entails responsibility, many of them want none of it. They would happily exchange their liberty for a modest (if illusory) security. Even those who claim to cherish their freedom are rather less enthusiastic about taking the consequences of their actions. The aim of untold millions is to be free to do exactly as they choose and for someone else to pay when things go wrong.

In the past few decades, a peculiar and distinctive psychology has emerged in England. Gone are the civility, sturdy independence, and admirable stoicism that carried the English through the war years. It has been replaced by a constant whine of excuses, complaint, and special pleading. The collapse of the British character has been as swift and complete as the collapse of British power.

Listening as I do every day to the accounts people give of their lives, I am struck by the very small part in them which they ascribe to their own efforts, choices, and actions. Implicitly, they disagree with Bacon’s famous dictum that “chiefly the mould of a man’s fortune is in his own hands.” Instead, they experience themselves as putty in the hands of fate.

It is instructive to listen to the language they use to describe their lives. The language of prisoners in particular teaches much about the dishonest fatalism with which people seek to explain themselves to others, especially when those others are in a position to help them in some way. As a doctor who sees patients in a prison once or twice a week, I am fascinated by prisoners’ use of the passive mood and other modes of speech that are supposed to indicate their helplessness. They describe themselves as the marionettes of happenstance…

Click here to read the entire article at City Journal.

Blanchard: Guide to Parenting

Kenn Blanchard of Black Man with a Gun has written a short essay on parenting responsibility. It’s worth your time to give it a read.

First I want to tip my hat to those successful baby boomers that are now the gray haired group in their seventies.

This generation that survived the Civil Rights era, bussing, political upheavals, World War II, the Nazi Holocaust, fear of the H-Bomb, Korea, Viet Nam, the Cuban Missile Crisis, Watergate, have raised children that have invented the internet, social media, drones, video games, remote control vehicles, cell phones and all the stuff we take for granted that the millennial can’t live without.

Somehow unfortunately my generation has forgotten that being a parent sis a full time job. We “collectively” hopefully not you my firmed, have not learned some important things from the old folks. Are you still with me?

The first lesson is that love is sacrificial. True love, real love, is not an emotion. It is not a passing feeling, or equal to I heart you!

Love is expressed more that it was said in my parent’s generation. Who remembers the Encyclopedia Britannica, the World Book and maybe even the Bible Stories series of books our parents “invested” in so we would have chance to go to college or get good grades so we could get a job and get out on our own? Those books were our Google. Remember the dictionary? My parents worked two jobs so that we had a house, clothes to wear and expensive breakfast cereal to eat on Saturday mornings. Named brand cereal too, like Capt Crunch, Sugar Pops, Rice Kris pies….

They made payments on the encyclopedia. When someone got a new car in the neighborhood or family it was a big deal Folks celebrated with you.

Oh and by the way, there where guns and live ammunition in the house. There were military arms brought home from the wars they served in or bought at pawn shops to protect the home. My maternal grandmother, mother of the church, deaconess, preparer of Holy Communion on second Sundays, kept a loaded single barrel Sears and Roebuck shotgun behind the kitchen woodstove, all my life. Nobody touched it. Nobody died from it being there, unsecured. My paternal grandmother was a little rough around the edges, she kept a loaded Belgium Browning A5 shotgun in her bedroom over the door and a concealed weapon, and an Italian handled switchblade knife in her bra…

Click here to read the entire article at Black Man with a Gun.