Time to Replant the Seeds of Liberty

Madis Senner

The story of the United States is the story of the struggle for liberty, freedom and democracy, from the earliest settlers to our founders, from Presidents like Abraham Lincoln and Franklin Delano Roosevelt to activists like Martin Luther King. And to countless millions who endured, suffered and gave their lives in the pursuit of that dream. They taught us that liberty is a struggle that must be won, again and again! They showed us that the struggle for liberty is a sacrifice because the seeds that they planted did not bear fruit until they were long gone. They redefined and advanced the concept of liberty to reflect the times—all the while making it shinier, more inconclusive and more just!

"Liberty, when it begins to take root, is a plant of rapid growth."
George Washington Letter to James Madison

Sadly, we have let those seeds of liberty fall to the ground untended. We have failed to have it keep pace with the dramatic changes that have transformed the world. The world has become increasingly smaller and more interconnected, the world population has exploded and the pressures we place upon the environment globally grow with each passing day. All the while, the technological revolution which has changed and redefined every aspect our lives, opening up more and more possibilities. With these comes the responsibility for safeguarding the freedom of all people; privacy, for example, is being redefined, now that access to electronic records is increasing. Yet what we think of as liberty has remained immutable. Liberty is a cherished dream that must molded and crafted by each generation to reflect its times. . We have let liberty decay into a dry, dispirited discussion of laws rather than the inspiring dream and spirit it is. As we have turned our glance away from our ideals and toward our idols – things manufactured by people supposedly to give us satisfaction and happiness--we have lost more and more, the spirit of liberty. We have lost the best part of ourselves.

"Our reliance is in the lover of liberty which God planted in us. Our defense is in the spirit which primed liberty as the heritage of all men, in all lands everywhere. Destroy this spirit and you have planted the seeds of despotism at your door." Abraham Lincoln
Speech in Edwardsville, Illinois

The great teachers and prophets have trumpeted for millennia the pitfalls of clinging too closely to the letter of the law. We have allowed laws to be handmaidens of corporate greed rather than protectors of the weak, repeating an ancient wrong to our own peril: "Ah, you who make iniquitous decrees, who write oppressive statues, to turn aside the needy from justice and to rob the poor of my people of their right, that widows may be your spoil, and that you may make the orphans your prey!" says the prophet Isaiah. (Isaiah 10:1-3) Using money and power, corporate entities have exploited the legal system to their advantage. They have whittled Liberty down like a giant redwood tree and fashioned it into a flute they play to cast their spell. We all cherish the words in the Declaration of Independence: "We are all created equal." Words that drove Lincoln and King---are hollow today! Corporations have a special status—they are endowed with human rights but do not have all the responsibilities! They are above the Law!

"America was established not to create wealth but to realize a vision, to realize an ideal-to discover and maintain liberty among men." Woodrow Wilson

We are a democracy. We can vote. But, as the uncertainty of the recent presidential election demonstrated, the technical process of voting can leave some citizens disenfranchised. In an economic system dependent upon the market and driven by money, Americans today have the equivalent of corporate non-voting status. We do not really have decision-making power. We vote for politicians funded by corporations—maybe politicians should stamp a little corporate logo on their heads. With their special status in hand and politicians in tow, corporations mold us as they desire. Every day, we are "branded" with logos. The most stylish clothing boldly proclaims the name of its manufacturer. Redemption lies in the affiliation and identification with a particular corporation. It is as if the nation has begun to worship corporate identities, seeking self-definition not from within, but without.

"The economic royalists complain that we seek to overthrow the institutions of America. What they really complain of is that we seek to take away their power. Our allegiance to American institutions requires the overthrow of this kind of power. In vain they seek to hide behind the flag and the Constitution. In their blindness they forget what the flag and the Constitution stand for."
Franklin Delano Roosevelt In his acceptance speech at the Democratic party National Convention in Philadelphia, June 27, 1936

Meanwhile, economists—modern-day equivalents of ancient high priests and soothsayers -- spread the gospel of the invisible hand and the ‘platinum rule’ of self-interest. We are told we live in a secular world, that we are free to practice any religion we choose. Yet faith in the spirit called ‘the invisible hand’ – the belief that all of actions in the world, they call it the market, is guided by an invisible hand. We are told to act selfishly in our own self-interest and the ‘invisible hand’ will ensure that our selfish pursuits will benefit all of society. Belief that the world is one large market guided by the" invisible hand" -- permeates every aspect of our lives. But its tenet of self-interest contradicts the teachings and beliefs of the great religious teachers and prophets sent to us. We are told that capitalism defeated communism and that its belief system is superior. As a person of faith, I refuse to subjugate myself to either. Any system based upon faith in economics and money is wrong, whether its choir is the central planning committee of a communist state or the board of directors of a corporation.

"The whole history of the progress of human liberty shows that all concessions yet made to her august claims, have been made of earnest struggle….If there is no struggle, there is no progress. Those who profess to favor freedom yet deprecate agitation, are men who want crops without plowing under the ground, they want rain without thunder and lightning. They want an ocean without the awful roar of its many waters. Power concedes nothing without demand. It never did it never will….The limits of tyrants are prescribed by the endurance ot those whom they oppress." Fredrick Douglas Speech in Canandaigua, New York, August 3, 1857

And when we turn our hearts to traditional systems of faith, and of religion, we are similarly confronted with scriptures whose meaning has failed to keep pace in a transformed world. We hear words spoken words whose meaning and spirit are long gone as they cling to the letter of the law. With each step forward of changes wrought by time they clasp their rulebook ever harder. Zealots of all ilk rule the roost, whether they call themselves conservatives or fundamentalists. They like their counterparts in the secular world, take the scriptures, whether it be the Torah, the Bible, or the Qu'ran and cite them text and verse like lawyers in a legal brief looking to make a point or win a case. They use words to say what they mean but have no meaning—they are dead. They are bereft of spirit and crumble like old parchment unfolded beneath the bright sun.

Wherever one person on the globe is not free we are all at risk!

Time will no longer let us bury our head like an ostrich to escape the winds of change—we must confront our new global reality. Pressure is building. Hitler had to raise an army to kill 6 million Jews and countless more. In today’s world, armies are no longer necessary. A clever and diabolical mind, using the technology of biological weapons or clever Internet ploys, could wipe out much of humanity. The September 11th attacks show how vulnerable we are. We cannot build a technological moat to protect ourselves. Nor must we be fooled into thinking we can rule with our military and technological might. The lesson of technology is that it becomes, bigger, better, more powerful and gives more power to the individual whether they be a solider or a terrorist! We need a different solution!

"Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,...
The best lack all conviction, while the worst
are full of passionate intensity."


It is time for us to readapt, modernize and reinvigorate the spirit of liberty to reflect the modern world. WE must again make liberty spirit—not dead words on paper used to control instead of empower! We must not be dissuaded by those driven by their own self-interest and material objects and pursuits claiming that the spirit of liberty never existed and never will. Such thinking defies the cherished beliefs of our founders and all those that gave and sacrificed. Each step forward for liberty has been a step forward for America.

Forgiveness of debts another powerful and proven Jubilee remedy. After WWI we heaped mountains of debts upon Germany and got despotism, tyranny and WWII. After WWII the USA forgave debts and ushered in the Marshall Plan. America blossomed as never before and Europe made amends and united to form a common union.

For too long we have ignored the lessons and power of liberty. Set them free and you shall be freed. This is the principal upon which the Jubilee (Leviticus 25) is based upon: Set the people free, give up your land, foregive debts and give everyone liberty—all will be good! It is one of the divine principles of the universe. A principle which has seldom, if it all, and has only been followed for brief periods. But the truth contained in god’s words is unequivocal, unrefutable and enlightening. Consider the other remedies described in the Jubilee such as letting farmland lie fallow. Prescribed by God in 1500 BC. It is only in recent centuries that it has become universally accepted, although modern science does attempt to defy it. It took a thousand years, a millennia, before the Romans realized its truth and became the first to actively let part of their land go fallow in the fifth century BC. How strange and difficult it must have been for the early Israelites, dependent upon the land for their existence, to let their land lay fallow every seventh year—It made no logical sense, it was counter-intuitve and put their lives and livelihood at risk. It is only when we set others free that we will be freed.

We can no longer wait to replant the seeds of liberty in the United States of America! LET US PROCLAIM LIBERTY ANEW AND RING THE LIBERTY BELL AS THEY DID IN 1776!

Learned Hand
'The Spirit of Liberty'
Speech in New York City, May 21, 1944
"We have gathered here to affirm a faith, a faith in a common purpose, a common conviction, a common devotion. Some of us have chosen America as the land of our adoption; the rest have come from those who did the same. For this reason we have some right to consider ourselves a picked group, a group of those who had the courage to break from the past and brave the dangers and the loneliness of a strange land. What was the object that nerved us, or those who went before us, to this choice? We sought liberty-freedom from oppression, freedom from want, freedom to be ourselves. This we then sought; this we now believe that we are by way of winning. What do we mean when we say that first of all we seek liberty? I often wonder whether we do not rest our hopes too much upon constitutions, upon laws, and upon courts. These are false hopes; believe me, these are false hopes. Liberty lies in the hearts of men and women; when it dies there, no constitution, no law, no court can save it; no constitution, no law, no court can even do much to help it. While it lies there, it needs no constitution, no law. No court to save it. And what is this liberty which must lie in the hearts of men and women? It is not the ruthless, the unbridled will; it is not freedom to do as one likes. That is the denial of liberty, and leads straight to its overthrow. A society in which men recognize no check upon their freedom soon becomes a society where freedom is the possession of only a savage few-as we have learned to our sorrow.

What, then, is the spirit of liberty? I cannot define it; I can only tell you my own faith. The spirit of liberty is the spirit which is not sure it is right; the spirit of liberty is the spirit which seeks to understand the minds of other men and women; the spirit of liberty is the spirit which weighs their interests alongside its own without bias; the spirit of liberty remembers that not even a sparrow falls to the ground unheeded; the spirit of liberty is the spirit of him who, near two thousand years ago, taught mankind that lesson it has never learned, but has never quite forgotten-that there may be a kingdom where the least shall be heard and considered side by side with the great. And now in that spirit, that spirit of an America which has never been, and which may never be-nay, which never will be except as the conscience and courage of Americans create it-yet in the spirit of that America which lies hidden in some form, and shall have in the aspirations of us all; in the sprit of that America for which our young men are at this moment fighting and dying; in that spirit of liberty and of America so prosperous, and safe and contented, we shall have failed to grasp its meaning, and shall have been truant to its promise, except as we strive to make it a signal, a beacon, a standard, to which the best hopes of mankind will ever turn. In confidence that you share that belief, I now ask you to raise your hands and repeat with me this pledge:

I pledge allegiance to the flag of the United States of America, and to the Republic for which it stands--one nation, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all."

...Free Yourself...Free Others...Free Yourself...Free Others....Free Yourself...Free Others...

Back to Table of Contents