The price of freedom has been on display over the last few weeks as a tyrannical bully has sought to smash a smaller nation into servitude. I was so proud of the courageous president of Ukraine, Volodymyr Zelensky, in his response last weekend when the Biden Administration offered to evacuate him away to safety and out of the country.
Zelensky, who is well aware of the enormous risks to his life, said in response, “The fight is here. I need ammunition, not a ride.” That quote will perhaps be evoked for generations to come.
My favorite author on freedom, Lord Acton, described freedom this way.
Liberty, next to religion has been the motive of good deeds and the common pretext of crime, from the sowing of the seed at Athens, 2,460 years ago, until the ripened harvest was gathered by men of our race. It is the delicate fruit of a mature civilization; and scarcely a century has passed since nations, that knew the meaning of the term, resolved to be free. In every age its progress has been beset by its natural enemies, by ignorance and superstition, by lust of conquest and by love of ease, by the strong man’s craving for power, and the poor man’s craving for food. During long intervals it has been utterly arrested, when nations were being rescued from barbarism and from the grasp of strangers, and when the perpetual struggle for existence, depriving men of all interest and understanding in politics, has made them eager to sell their birthright for a pottage, and ignorant of the treasure they resigned. At all times sincere friends of freedom have been rare, and its triumphs have been due to minorities, that have prevailed by associating themselves with auxiliaries whose objects often differed from their own; and this association, which is always dangerous, has been sometimes disastrous, by giving to opponents just ground of opposition, and by kindling dispute over the spoils in the hour of success. No obstacle has been so constant, or so difficult to overcome as uncertainty and confusion touching the nature of true liberty. If hostile interests have wrought much injury, false ideas have wrought still more; and its advance is recorded in the increase of knowledge as much as in the improvement of laws. The history of institutions is often a history of deception and illusions; for their virtue depends on the ideas that produce and on the spirit that preserves them; and the form may remain unaltered when the substance has passed away…..Lord Acton, An Address Delivered to the Members of the Bridgnorth Institute, February 26, 1877
It carries similarly courageous sentiments as these powerful statements by free leaders.
“Mr. Gorbachev tear down this wall.” —Ronald Reagan June 12, 1987
“You ask, what is our aim? I can answer in one word: It is victory, victory at all costs, victory in spite of all terror, victory, however long and hard the road may be; for without victory, there is no survival.” —Winston Churchill, Speech to the House of Commons, May 10, 1940
There are many brave men and women who are now fighting for their very lives in Ukraine, and perhaps soon to come, other former Soviet-controlled countries. It was about 40 years ago when three heroic individuals stepped forward and stood firm in the face of tyrannical actions against a much smaller country, Poland. As Pope John Paul II, Margaret Thatcher and Ronald Reagan teamed up to liberate Eastern Europe from its long night of darkness. There is precedence for courage.
Looking to the past for solutions to the present
Winston Churchill wrote a series of books on World War II. In them he states clearly his aims when he said,
In War: Resolution. In Defeat: Defiance. In Victory: Magnanimity. In Peace: Good Will.Winston Churchill, The Second World War, Volume I : The Gathering Storm (1948) Moral of the Work
He then outlined several themes for each volume. Notice the prescient nature of each volume for our time.
- The Gathering Storm: How the English-speaking peoples through their unwisdom, carelessness, and good nature allowed the wicked to rearm.
- Their Finest Hour: How the British people held the fort alone till those who hitherto had been half blind were half ready.
- The Grand Alliance: How the British fought on with hardship their garment until Soviet Russian (I will now say Ukraine) and the United States were drawn into the Great Conflict.
- The Hinge of Fate: How the power of the Grand Alliance became preponderant.
- Closing the Ring: How Nazi Germany (Russia) was isolated and assailed on all sides.
- Triumph and Tragedy: How the great democracies triumphed, and so were able to resume the follies which had so nearly cost them their life.
And so it is. History continues to replay the same scenarios with different names, but with human nature ambitiously and avariciously seeking what is not theirs to give or take—the freedom of another.
May we pray for these brave families, friends and patriots who are doing their best to keep their freedom. May we have the courage and will to give them what they need to defend their unalienable rights.
I end with these words from Churchill who understood that those days of the Nazi menace were “stern days” after an offer came from Mussolini for a peace conference with Adolf Hitler.
If this long island story of ours is to end at last, let it end only when each one of us lies choking in his own blood upon the ground.Winston Churchill
Freedom requires this level of commitment to a noble cause greater than self. Liberty and tyranny have been played out over the millennia from Athens to Jerusalem, to Rome and Philadelphia with too many places to mention in between. May God Bless America and help her to be the beacon and hand of hope during these stern days.