The Grads words I shared last week have haunted me. They sounded the absence of acceptable choices. My nightmare is that I am blissfully wandering down my chosen path and content that I have rolled a whole lot of view from the rearview mirror. Frustration builds in coming to the realization that there is nothing of worth to accomplish ahead of me for as far as the eye can see. Am I just sadly traveling through the motions?
Mom’s insight has painted increasingly nightmarish brushstrokes to my irritation above. She laments that each generation is suffering from an increasing loss of freedoms. I grieve from the loss after mass shootings; days of me driving to high school are long past. My peers and I seldom locked our vehicles then and they usually consisted of a rifle and shotgun visible in the rack. Her words of maybe it is not so bad for they know not what they miss finds no solace for me.
America’s creation emerged from the desire to be free to choose. The pilgrims wanted to be allowed the privilege to worship according to the dictates of their own conscience. That desire took them over 4200 miles from their homeland to the new world they knew little about. Many more followed in their footsteps, or more accurately sea legs.
The most profound statement ever produced regarding freedom and liberty is that expressed as the unanimous Declaration of the thirteen united states of America. In declaring their intention to separate from Great Britain and become equal among the nations, the signers of the document proclaimed: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”
Liberty and happiness eluded those calling the colonies of North America home. Theirs was a hope for something better. Fifty-six individuals signed their names to the hallowed text. I can’t imagine that anyone of them took it lightly. These men pledged lives for this nation’s birth. With each signature, a separate act of treason toward the Crown. Nine of them died as a result of the war to follow. Fifteen lost fortunes and six gave them up to finance the cause. Twelve would see homes ransacked and ruined. Three of South Carolina’s delegates were imprisoned. Patrick Henry’s immortal quote, “Give me liberty, or give me death!” should take on a deeper meaning for all of us.
Freedom isn’t free. And it is a whole different matter to keep it. We owe at least a debt of gratitude to those that have secured it. I can choose! When things disappear in the rearview and all’s dim going forward, I will find my strength from those Americans braving the darkness and leading by example before me. Their hopes and dreams will be my fire and my drive. That’s just what Americans do!
■ Scott Arens is a resident of Arbuckle. Contact Scott at firstname.lastname@example.org