As we all pause to honor those who have paid the ultimate price in defense of freedoms that we often take for granted, it’s worthwhile to remember the oft-used cliché ‘Freedom is not free.’ There are those who roll their eyes when they hear this, but before you join that group, think about it. How did we get to where we are today; a country that, notwithstanding its faults, is the symbol of freedom on this planet?
It started with a dream. A group of diverse men gathered together and came up with a document that proposed a form of government that was for its time radical – a government that operated according to the will of the people rather than the dictates of a king. A system that honored the will of the majority while protecting the rights of the minority.
The system they envisioned wasn’t perfect. It talked of freedom, but many of them were slave owners, treating other human beings as mere property. It posited that all men are created equal, and at the time that was what it meant, for women were considered children who needed the protection of a father, brother, or son.
But, they created an institutional framework that enabled each of these failings to be addressed in time. Slavery was ended – although, it took another hundred years of struggle to achieve something approaching true equality for the freed slaves and their descendants. Women eventually got the right to vote, own property, and sign contracts – even if they do still lag behind men in income and other signs of true equality. Give us time, folks, this is still a work in progress.
I digress, though; the theme here is the price of freedom. The founding fathers were prepared to pay a price to achieve this dream – they could all have been hanged as traitors had not our struggle for independence been successful. Soldiers in the Continental Army under George Washington paid the price in blood at places like Yorktown and Valley Forge. In the more than two centuries since, Americans of all colors, religions, economic status, and gender, have continued to step forward when necessary, sometimes laying their lives down, to ensure the continuation of that dream of those men who gathered in the 1700s to begin construction of the American dream.
No, freedom is not free. It is bought and paid for with the blood of patriots; men and women who are willing to sacrifice all to keep the rest of us free.