DMI Blog

Dan Ancona

Our freedom is one louder

Conservative email lists can make for great reading. Earlier this week, one of them featured Oliver North (not kidding - they still use him. Scooter Libby my friend, you have a future), who sends his Fourth of July greetings...

Two hundred and thirty-one years ago this July 4th, a committee of five patriots, headed by a young farmer from Virginia, presented the final draft of the Declaration of Independence to 55 of his colleagues in the Second Continental Congress. After making relatively few changes to Thomas Jefferson’s work and then, pledging "to each other our lives, our fortunes and our sacred honor," all 56 members signed their names to this Declaration of Independence. In so doing, they created something that was then unique on the planet earth: a country based on the concepts of individual liberty, religious freedom, private property and democratic government. Since then, the people of this nation have taken great risks to offer others the hope of that same freedom.

The first couple sentences are fine, just another part of the inspirational heritage that all Americans share. But things get funky later on, especially the parts in bold. We know where Thomas Jefferson stood on this argument because we know what made it into the Declaration of Independence: "the pursuit of happiness," not property.

Progressives can do better. We can go head to head on freedom and win, because we don't put freedom into the property rights box. Here's a re-write, offered respectfully to Col. North:

A country based on the concepts of ....
mutual responsibility and interdependence,
freedom from tyranny and freedom from monarchy,
freedom from the imposition of moral orders,
freedom of religion,
freedom to become who you really are,
freedom to develop your talents,
freedom from want and freedom from fear,
and all of this is realized through
democratic, participatory government - for everyone.

(Is Ollie with progressives on freedom of religion? Probably not - it's doubtful that he would oppose billion dollar violations of the establishment clause, for example.)

Those may not sound right - yet - because that story of freedom isn't necessarily the story we've been told all along. But, our story is every bit as true as their story. Never forget that. True freedom is much, much larger than property rights and the right to be intolerant.

Postscript: Rick Perlstein knocked one all the way out of the park on the same topic yesterday over at the Campaign for America's future blog. A great read from the guy who understands the history of the conservative movement better than just about anyone.

Dan Ancona: Author Bio | Other Posts
Posted at 6:07 PM, Jul 05, 2007 in Democracy
Permalink | Email to Friend