I don't know how many of you have been watching college football bowl games this week, or will watch more over the weekend. At the beginning of every game, of course, following the longstanding tradition established by baseball, they always sing the Star Spangled Banner, our national anthem. And the conclusion of that stirring song stuck out this week; you all know it, it's the line that singers struggle with, "the land of the free, and the home of the brave."
My high school textbook for AP American History was called Land of the Free, as I recall. And that dedication to freedom, and thus liberty, has always been a central proposition of our country's heritage.
America, we are told in song and pledge, is the sweet land of liberty, dedicated to the proposition that all are created equal, and each of us has the inalienable right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of material possessions or happiness, whichever comes first. We know that the definition we use here for freedom includes some brilliant and noble conceptions: freedom from want and fear, freedom of conscience and public expression, freedom of the press, of thought, of religion, freedom from coercion and tyranny. We tend to think that the Lockeian ideals of individual rights are the first, foremost, and only way in which human beings can seek freedom, and that freedom is, in and of itself, an unassailable, intrinsic, greatest possible good for all human beings. We even seek actively to export freedom to all the peoples of the world—or at least all we can reach by military expedition or to commercial advantage.