We often make assumptions about the meaning of liberty. But have we considered its questions and requirements? Can we truly embrace meaning without examining its foundation?
I’ve been challenging you to seek true liberty, rather than the benefits we suppose it will provide. And, I have focused on the role of the virtues in the function of the United States Constitution, a concern argued forcefully by the Founders.
Some people think a concern for the virtues is tiresome or frivolous. Who are these people? How do they live? What do they know?
Do we expect to defend liberty without principles or conditions?
The Founders identified personal virtues required by the Constitution. They knew the Constitution, which imposed almost no limits on personal freedom, could not function without ethical behavior on the part of citizens.
They said so in writing.
At a time when the horizon is darkening, when growing disruptions dominate our lives, the virtues take on renewed significance. They include trustworthiness, dependability, patience, forbearance, cooperation and courage—among others.
And the most important is truthfulness. Because truthfulness is the foundation for all the rest.
While these are personal principles requiring personal commitment, civilization itself depends on them.
For Americans who care about the future this is a practical matter. The virtues are the fundamental requirements of a civilized, prosperous and secure order.
But they are more than this. They are markers that identify human character. They inform us of the inherent attributes of a persons’ beliefs and intentions, the moral and ethical basis for their actions and reactions.
I suggest that these are firm attributes among those who have chosen to serve their country and their neighbors with selfless intent.
Words are not enough. Honesty and dependability, patience and good will, are revealed in action—the behavior of trustworthy people.
There is nothing we need now more than trust.
And, yes, there is a bottom line: The truly trustworthy person knows this about him- or herself! We are trustworthy when no one is watching; truthful when no one else will know the difference.
We show patience and forbearance when no one else would do so.
The virtues bring our lives into harmony with the way of the world when things are right. They are consistent with justice. They are the foundations of order.
Who would imagine that liberty could be built on the foundation of anything else?
It is long past time to stop listening to gossip and easy talk. We need to turn to our neighbors, whoever they may be, and get down to the real work.
Local communities are the building-blocks of civilization, and the virtues are the means that govern outcomes. It is time for action.
Nothing will change until each of us takes initiative.
We cannot know the needs of a neighborhood, a community or town, without engaging directly and respectfully with our neighbors.
Each of us is responsible for investigating the truth—or withholding judgment if this is not possible. We cannot afford to see the world through the eyes of others, or to act on unproven assumptions.
Nothing—no person and no problem—can be understood without asking questions. Dialog and perseverance pave the road to liberty.
If we are not ready for the real work of living in a civilized society, what are we complaining about?
You may watch for the next post on or about July 4.
Note to new readers: An introduction to the coming book and several sample chapters are available in draft at the top of the homepage: www.freedomstruth.net.