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Memorial Weekend, 2013

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Memorial Day is when we remember--not the veterans who returned home, but those who did not.



"I do not know whether it is to yourself or Mr. Adams I am to give my thanks for the copy of the new constitution. I beg leave through you to place them where due. It will be yet three weeks before I shall receive them from America. There are very good articles in it: and very bad. I do not know which preponderate.

What we have lately read in the history of Holland, in the chapter on the Stadtholder, would have sufficed to set me against a Chief magistrate eligible for a long duration, if I had ever been disposed towards one: and what we have always read of the elections of Polish kings should have forever excluded the idea of one continuable for life.

Wonderful is the effect of impudent and persevering lying. The British ministry have so long hired their gazetteers to repeat and model into every form lies about our being in anarchy, that the world has at length believed them, the English nation has believed them, the ministers themselves have come to believe them, and what is more wonderful, we have believed them ourselves. Yet where does this anarchy exist? Where did it ever exist, except in the single instance of Massachusets? And can history produce an instance of a rebellion so honourably conducted? I say nothing of it's motives. They were founded in ignorance, not wickedness. God forbid we should ever be 20. years without such a rebellion.

The people can not be all, and always, well informed. The part which is wrong will be discontented in proportion to the importance of the facts they misconceive. If they remain quiet under such misconceptions it is a lethargy, the forerunner of death to the public liberty. We have had 13. states independant 11. years. There has been one rebellion. That comes to one rebellion in a century and a half for each state.

What country ever existed a century and a half without a rebellion? And what country can preserve it's liberties if their rulers are not warned from time to time that their people preserve the spirit of resistance? Let them take arms. The remedy is to set them right as to facts, pardon and pacify them. What signify a few lives lost in a century or two?

The tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time with the blood of patriots and tyrants. It is it's natural manure. Our Convention has been too much impressed by the insurrection of Massachusets: and in the spur of the moment they are setting up a kite to keep the hen yard in order. I hope in god this article will be rectified before the new constitution is accepted."
- Thomas Jefferson to William Stephens Smith, Paris, 13 Nov. 1787

(Paragraph spacing is mine; for readability only.)

This Thomas Jefferson letter is known primarily for the quotation "The tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time with the blood of patriots and tyrants. It is it's natural manure." But equally if not more insightful is an earlier Jefferson comment in the letter: "Wonderful is the effect of impudent and persevering lying. The British ministry have so long hired their gazetteers to repeat and model into every form lies about our being in anarchy, that the world has at length believed them, the English nation has believed them, the ministers themselves have come to believe them, and what is more wonderful, we have believed them ourselves. Yet where does this anarchy exist?"

Free press, yes. But aren't we always told that with freedom (gained by the sacrifice of brave warriors) comes responsibility?

What has our free press done with the freedom they have been given, but lie to us at the whim of the very government which they increasingly depend on for their "copy."

It is past time to call for Separation of Press and State, every bit as restrictive as the separation of State and Religion which is daily imposed on even private citizens in the public sphere.

What shape would this Separation of Press and State take? It is hard to say. At a minimum, the State must not be providing funding to the Press: either overtly through "public broadcasting" or by purchasing advertising from media outlets.

Beyond that, you encounter conflicts between the rights of individuals and the requirements of this separation--just like conflicts occur between expressions of religion and the governmental duty to maintain public order.

But, on Memorial Day, is it really enough to put a hand over your heart, bow your head for a 10-second "moment of silence), and then dig into your burger and beer? Shouldn't people be talking about what the people who died in the service of this country gave up their lives for in the first place? Wouldn't that be a more proper and fitting memorial than a family picnic?

What have you done with the freedoms you have, which were secured by the blood of your fellows of this generation and of the generations which came before? What will you do with those freedoms?

Will you use your freedoms to take away the freedoms of others?

Because unless things change drastically in this country, that's exactly what we as a nation are doing right now. What kind of memorial is that?