The words freedom, rights, and liberty are often abused and end up encompassing competing (even mutually exclusive) ideals. Somehow we’ve gotten these words confused. And the confusion has had horrific consequences.
I think we can all agree that nobody is more confused on this issue than our President of the United States Barack Obama.
However, one President of the United States understood the meaning of those words though. On April 18, 1864, Abraham Lincoln delivered a speech that summarized it brilliantly on the occasion of Maryland abolishing slavery in that state.
…The world has never had a good definition of the word liberty, and the American people, just now, are much in want of one. We all declare for liberty; but in using the same word we do not all mean the same thing. With some the word liberty may mean for each man to do as he pleases with himself, and the product of his labor; while with others the same word may mean for some men to do as they please with other men, and the product of other men’s labor. Here are two, not only different, but incompatible things, called by the same name—liberty. And it follows that each of the things is, by the respective parties, called by two different and incompatible names—liberty and tyranny.
The shepherd drives the wolf from the sheep’s throat, for which the sheep thanks the shepherd as a liberator, while the wolf denounces him for the same act as the destroyer of liberty, especially as the sheep was a black one. Plainly the sheep and the wolf are not agreed upon a definition of the word liberty; and precisely the same difference prevails to-day among us human creatures, even in the North, and all professing to love liberty. Hence we behold the processes by which thousands are daily passing from under the yoke of bondage, hailed by some as the advance of liberty, and bewailed by others as the destruction of all liberty. Recently, as it seems, the people of Maryland have been doing something to define liberty; and thanks to them that, in what they have done, the wolf’s dictionary, has been repudiated.
Sadly, the wolf’s dictionary was not altogether repudiated. The lexicon of the wolf is used by our President, our Supreme Court, and the majority of our legislators, if not the majority of the country. The confusion of liberty and tyranny is clearest when conversing with the tyrant.
For too long now, this country has adopted the lexicon of the wolf and allowed the slaughter of the unborn. We must continue to repudiate its assumptions and its rhetoric. Liberty must be all inclusive or it is simply a tyranny of the majority.
This fight is a continuation of the same fight that bloodied so many American fields a century and a half ago. It is the fight that can only end when we all listen to the cry of the other and recognize in that cry their humanity. Because it’s only when we recognize their God given right to liberty that we can end this awful tyranny. And pray that we never confuse the two again.