Liberty or Death

“Caesar had his Brutus, Charles the First his Cromwell; and George the Third…may he profit by their example. If this be treason, make the most of it!” -Patrick Henry

Patrick Henry is my fifth or sixth great-grandfather.

It should come as no surprise, then, that I take his words, “give me liberty or give me death” very seriously. Thanks to the guys at Ranger Up, I now have several articles of clothing with the “liberty or death” mantra emblazoned on them. Soon I will have several of his infamous quotes tattooed on my body as a testament to my belief that I, as a free American, should be ready to give all to defend our freedom. What leaves me dismayed is that far too many people in today’s society have come to see such displays as a form of extremism.

It’s the Tea Party affiliation, you see. What they fail to understand is that their despising of my beliefs is no more serious than it was in Patrick Henry’s day. When my famous ancestor hoisted the Gadsden flag above his home, it was just as controversial then as it is now for me to put on a baseball cap with the same logo on it. There were people in 1773 who were just as vehemently against his talk of revolution as there are now who label me an extremist. I, like him, have also been branded a traitor for saying that my rulers have seriously overstepped their bounds.

He was a member of the Sons of Liberty, an organization of patriots who fought for the independence of the Colonies when their status as loyal citizens of the British Crown was repeatedly assailed and their freedom threatened. It is unknown if he was there, but it is believed that he stood alongside his friend and fellow patriot Samuel Adams when the Sons dressed as Indians and invaded the ships in Boston Harbor on December 16, 1773 to dump taxed tea into the ocean. He was an elected member of the First Continental Congress. He spoke and wrote ferociously against the British incursions into the Colonies to restrict speech and confiscate weapons. On March 23, 1775, he spoke before the Virginia House of Burgesses in an effort to convince them to raise a militia to defend against escalating encroachment from the British. It was during this speech that he said, “is life so dear, or peace so sweet, to be purchased at the price of chains or slavery? Forbid it, Almighty God! I know not what course others may take, but as for me – give me liberty or give me death!”

He served as a colonel in the 1st Virginia Regiment during the Revolutionary War, often defending stores of weapons and gunpowder. He first refused to support the ratification of the Constitution because it gave the federal government too much power; he also worried that the office of the President could devolve into a de facto monarchy. As he watched the horror of the French Revolution unfold, he also worried that too little power in the hands of government could be just as bad. He knew that a balance needed to be struck and, in the end, he joined the Federalists with Washington.

My concern today is just as real as his was during the founding of this country. Too little power could reduce the people to a rabble. Too much power, however, has turned the Presidency into the beginnings of a dictatorship. So-called Representatives pass laws that apply only to the citizenry, carving niches for themselves in the balance of power. Crony capitalism has flourished, leaving special interests on both sides of Congress capable of buying new laws, more funding, and higher taxes. What’s more, the people have realized that they can vote themselves money – and citizenship is no longer seen as a privilege that must be earned by either birth or work and respect. The America that my spitfire of a Scottish fifth great-grandfather fought to free and struggled to help grow is going down the very path that he and his compatriots feared.

Just like him, I have been dumped by liberals into the category of an extremist – by the angriest, I have been called a traitor. For agreeing with both Henry’s and Jefferson’s assertions that revolution is sometimes a necessary evil to protect our freedoms, I have been called dangerous. Like him, though, I don’t want to fight. I merely recognize that I may have to only as a last resort, and that is was sets us apart. Liberals think everything needs to be a fight, including their fight to end our rights to arm ourselves.

I have hope for my country. I have hope that the liberals who seek to destroy our rights and the social conservatives who seek to turn us into a theocracy will eventually cancel each other out, but I know that isn’t likely. I hope that I’ll never have to fight against my government, but they increasingly leave me little choice. I hope that we’ll be able to coexist, but I realize that more and more I’m one of few that really cares about actually living in peace and tolerating those who disagree.

I am a natural born citizen of the United States. I am a free woman, descended from one of the men who fought for our rights. I will not give up my freedom for anything – not even peace. I would rather die on my feet than live on my knees. Liberty or death. I will not live as a victim, a serf, or a slave.


2 thoughts on “Liberty or Death

  1. Thanks for a thought-provoking article. Though neither LGBT nor conservative myself, I support marriage equality and open dialogue with any and all whose politics differ from mine. I only demand civil behavior, so I do tune out name-callers, at least when I’m not feeling wicked and rattling their cages on purpose.

    It’s a big topic, trying to explore to what degree we have access to freedom and to exercise our rights. In one way, few of us are free. Because few of us have all the survival skills or resources needed to live without any aid from others, we must adapt to some sort of society – a support system. We all live under pressure to trade SOME of our liberty for what we deem an acceptable level of security. People regularly misquote Franklin on that. His written opinion includes the all-important adjectives “essential” and “temporary”:

    “Those who would give up essential Liberty, to purchase a little temporary Safety, deserve neither Liberty nor Safety.” – 1755

    In other words, he’s saying if you are going to compromise on something as important as your amount of liberty, it should be to make you permanently safer.

    In this country, we are surrounded and engulfed by a majority culture of Capitalism, Corporatism and materialism. I believe all three make us less free.
    Then there’s the feral children from Dickens’ Christmas Carol, ignorance and want. They are sources of enslavement too.

    The last challenge to freedom I want to mention is the artificiality of the concept of Left-Right politics. I do not believe it accurately characterizes either what most people believe or how they behave. Conservatism or liberality are situational.

    The most hard hearted small-government advocate will give their last $20 to a grandchild who asks for it. A pro-choice woman will march for abortion rights and then choose to keep an unplanned pregnancy. There are so many forces influencing our decisions more deeply than political preference, including genetics and personal experience. Did you know that 75% of the time in Presidential elections, whichever candidate is TALLER wins? What does that say about how voters make choices?

    I wouldn’t want to touch a single healthy tree on my own land, and I put out food for the wildlife, but if you want to bulldoze every living thing on yours and make a tennis court, it’s your business. If you want to own guns, I want assurance that you are trained to operate them safely, and if I’m within range of your firepower I want to know about it. I don’t care how anyone votes, as long as the choice is made after thinking. I do wish there were fewer people who vote on candidates and issues they haven’t studied. I don’t think voting “in the dark” helps any problem.

  2. As always, you’re right on the money, Mel.
    Haters, regardless of their battles, are always going to hate.

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