In 1775, Colonel William Moultrie was asked by the Revolutionary Council of Safety to design a flag for the Southern troops of the Continental Army to use during the American Revolutionary War. Moultrie’s design had the blue of the militia’s uniforms and the crescent-shaped Gorget (a piece of armor protecting the throat). It was first flown at Fort Johnson.
During a battle on June 28, 1776, the flag was shot down, but Sergeant William Jasper ran out into the open, raising it and rallying the troops until it could be mounted again. This gesture was so heroic, saving Charleston, South Carolina, from conquest for four years, that the flag came to be the symbol of the Revolution, and liberty, of South Carolina and the South.
Soon popularly known as either the Liberty Flag or Moultrie Flag, it became the standard of the Southern troops fighting against the British. Major General Nathanael Greene stated that the Liberty flag was the first to fly in the South to signify our freedom.
The Liberty flag is a symbol of the South and not just South Carolina.
According to Steve Flowers, Alabama historian and politician, most Alabamians originated from 6 states prior to us becoming a state in 1819. Among those were Tennessee, Georgia, North Carolina, Virginia, and South Carolina. Our own Jasper, Alabama was named after Sergeant William Jasper who bravely ran into the open during the battle to hold the Liberty flag until it could be raised again. The seeds of Alabama and the resulting roots were planted by our Revolutionary veterans and their children that relocated to Alabama after the war.
In 2017, I think definitions and meanings of words change in significance from what they meant over 300 years ago. I don’t know how many of us think of ‘liberty’ as anything but a synonym of the word “freedom” which could be used interchangeably. There is a subtle difference between ‘freedom’ and ‘liberty’ and the distinction is important. I’ve thought about it frequently and wonder if we still have our liberty.
By definition, “Freedom” is the state of not being imprisoned or enslaved.
Liberty is the state of being free within society from oppressive restrictions imposed by authority on one’s way of life, behavior, or political views.
Freedom can be argued to be a broader concept where I’m not restricted necessarily in my movements, I’m not imprisoned and I’m not enslaved (though I acknowledge a theoretical argument to the contrary that I won’t delve into here). But, within that freedom do I have ‘liberty’?
If ‘liberty’ is the state of being free within society from oppressive restrictions imposed by authority on one’s way of life, behavior, or political views then do I have liberty in our post-9/11 country? My answer is ‘no’ and this is the paradox of why our state and country is in mortal danger. As long as the mass of people believe that ‘freedom’ still exists then they risk becoming tolerant or dismissive of the loss of liberty. But, freedom is the protective shell around the M&M while the liberty is the chocolatey center. Freedom is the outside of the apple while the liberty is the edible parts inside. Freedom is the skin while liberty is the blood vessels, brain, organs and tissue. It is possible to look healthy and to look edible on the outside while rotting away on the inside. We are rotting on the inside and it is because we’ve been dismissive or apathetic to our loss of liberty. In many ways, I don’t believe any of us noticed because it’s happened slowly and done in the name of “safety”. The irony, though, is that we’ve done this to ourselves. We didn’t need a foreign invader.
Liberty, for clarification, holds the sacred civic duty of personal responsibility. A civilized society is built and maintained on the social constructs of good example and teaching correct principles with the expectation that people govern themselves. The abandonment of this cornerstone principle must be corrected as the first step in taking our liberty back. It involves first setting the example and then teaching with authority through that example, so that individuals within the family, community, state and country can model and govern themselves. We must live like we deserve liberty and we are not living that way.
We have gotten into some bad habits of taking without giving, deception instead of honesty, of destroying without rebuilding, of fighting instead of loving, hating instead of forgiving and deferring instead of living. We are not asking what we can do for our country, our state or our neighbors and too many of us are just “taking” because “everyone else is doing it.” This is the excuse. Too many of our corporations are “taking”, people in government are “taking”, and citizens are “taking”. To top that off, it feels (whether true or not) that other countries and their people coming here are also “taking”. It’s a circular cycle of “taking” from each other and it’s largely all “legal like”. It’s what Bastiat referred to in ‘The Law’ as “legal plundering”. This behavior on all sides is unsustainable and wrong. There will be a point of no return and we risk collapse unless we stop the “legal plundering.” At the end of the day though, the people are a reflection of our leaders and those leaders are the reflection of the people. Let that sink in.
If we want our liberty back and you want to reverse the rotting that we are experiencing in this country then we must be our “brother’s keeper” and, in doing so, respect our “brother” enough to hold high expectations for him to take responsibility for himself in action, word and deed. People can’t improve nor display their abilities within our participatory government and society without living in an environment where liberty exists. We have so many rules and laws now that I argue that liberty can’t exist or, for those who love control and “safety”, will credit the expansion of laws/rules for our brother’s “compliance” in our society. When, in the course of human events, has mankind ever accepted control, force or aggression by other humans as a long-term plan for a successful and free society? Never.
How do we take our liberty back? We do it in a three-prong approach to where we change ourselves and how we think first. We stop expecting government to solve our problems and if you can (and most of us can) then do it. If you can volunteer then make the time, if you want to strengthen your family then stop scheduling every waking moment of your children’s lives, if you see a problem in your community then organize like-minded citizens to solve the problem instead of expecting bureaucratic managers to do it. If you want to help your fellow man then be the Samaritan instead of those who walk by with excuses or assume it is someone else’s job.
But, none of this works without changing ourselves first. We weren’t always like this and we’ve allowed ourselves to be changed. I believe change is good if it is good change. Think about this for a minute and you must answer these questions… do you trust your neighbors? Do you trust people in your community? Do you trust most people in your state? Do you trust most of the people in your country?
Trust them with what, you ask? Do you trust them to live responsibly with less rules and less laws and that they would make responsible decisions and restrain themselves? Do you trust that they will begin to participate in this government more, in the education of their children, in the needs of the community to where we don’t need all of these bureaucratic managers doing it for us because people are doing it for themselves? Do you believe that our institutions, like nonprofits and religious organizations, can be trusted to fill voids and gaps where government currently exists? I think you should read those questions again and answer them out loud to yourself. Because we used to do all the above without the need for government to do it for us. Why? Because we trusted each other…even strangers… to manage themselves first and live responsibly. We then trusted that they cared about their community and the safety of the community that they would act and watch when needed. How many of you could ride your bike all over the place when you were young, allowed to go to the park without an adult, and were free to walk to and from school without your parent? This was America 20 to 30 years ago and it is because of trust that it largely doesn’t exist. We don’t trust each other and, because we don’t trust each other, this has triggered the extremes in our political worlds where we line up on sides (driven primarily by the lack of trust in the behavior of other human beings), specifically on social issues. It becomes a battle of worldviews where ‘trust’ or lack thereof becomes the weapon that justifies more law, more rules, and more government… by both the “conservative” and “liberal” ends of the spectrum. And, as a result, we lost our ‘liberty’. Liberty requires trust in a Democratic-Republic. It is the single most important ingredient.
So, this is where we must work on ourselves first. You must also realize that when other people are answering those same questions I listed above that you (whom probably believes yourself to be responsible and trustworthy) are thinking the same horrific thoughts about you as you are about them. Thus, we are our own problem and it starts with trust and responsible behavior put on constant display and exercised, not deferred.
The second prong to taking back our liberty is through education. We create our future citizens and a trustworthy community, state and nation by the job we do training our children in these principles. How we are training our children is a small microcosm of the larger problem that I’ve explained above with adults. We don’t trust our children or adolescents in the ways they need us to so we tend to manage every minute of their school day and are reactionary in a punitive way to human mistakes, failures and sins. Despite all evidence to the contrary on the damaging effects of ‘zero tolerance’ policies, our public schools still utilize ‘zero tolerance’ instead of case-by-case judgment, teachable moments, higher expectations on responsible action and flexibility to practice responsible behavior in a safe managed environment we’ve created for the purposes of developing and shaping responsible citizens.
I hear complaint after complaint from teachers and administrators about ‘helicopter’ parents or ‘aggressive’ parents that react if the school “disciplines” their child and then I hear the same concerns about the parents on the other end that do not partner with the school on discipline at home and are not involved, at all. It, once again, circles back to the fact that we don’t trust each other so we create rules and policies to force these issues and then the engaged parents, who were responsible for demanding more rules and policies to protect their children from the “absent” parent and their undisciplined children, react when those rules and policies (mainly due to ‘zero tolerance’) are used on their own children. It comes down to trust. My parents didn’t care if my Principals disciplined me because they trusted them, knew them to be fair and judicious, and saw value in those teachable moments from others in our community. In 2017 and as long as there is ‘zero tolerance’ and a blind obedience to rules without reason, I admittedly react like one of the engaged parents I describe above.
We need to be willing, as adults, to take the first steps in dismantling these obstacles to teaching and modeling responsibility for our children. We need to stop scheduling every minute of the school day and our kids need more free time, more student-directed learning and interaction, more exploration. Our governments need to trust our local public schools and get out of their way, stop scheduling every minute of our educator’s time, and remove the obstacles impeding our teacher’s ability to “teach” (including the important hidden curriculum of being a responsible and trustworthy citizen). Allow our children and teachers “liberty” by removing the rules and policies that inhibit the exercise and practice of “liberty”. I agree with Barbara Coloroso when she said, “Children have a difficult time becoming responsible, resourceful, and resilient if they are controlled, manipulated, and made to mind, robbed of their autonomy and denied opportunities to make choices and mistakes. They cannot develop a sense of inner discipline if all of the control comes from the outside.” This applies to adults too and reread her quote by inserting ‘adults’.
There needs to be a balanced priority shift in education delivery to put more of an emphasis on civic responsibility, Bill of Rights, constitutional government. At the same time, we need to place a greater responsibility on our adolescents to appreciate work, money, time management, and goals. We need to strengthen our emphasis on the classics of literature and the lessons they teach. Our schools need to meet the needs of the community and not demand sameness and uniformity (even within a local school district). The needs of Vincent or Columbiana, Alabama is not the same as the needs of the families in the Oak Mountain (Hoover area) schools. We must rethink how we view our schools and, to fix our community issues, must take a lot of our approaches back to some basics to solve these problems. So, to solve community deficits in the areas of poverty, broken homes, and adults that lack some of the prerequisite skills of personal responsibility then our schools, in those areas, become a natural beacon to offer and provide those needs. This occurs through collaborations with local resources, local employers, local churches, local leaders.
The third prong of restoring our liberty is through the political leadership we vote for and the requirements that we put on them to make less rules and deconstruct those policies and rules that inhibit that exercise of liberty in responsible ways. We need those citizens that work in unelected government to begin rethinking their roles as “managers” and begin reversing those policies that unnecessarily impede responsible liberty. We need a larger collaborative relationship between nongovernment community leaders and organizations to where responsibilities are shared and shifted away from “government” to fill need. We need to learn to trust each other again and not make “government” the aggressive tool to keep us safe, secure, prosperous, lawful or kind. Government is force no matter how you slice it and a free people exercising liberty in their own lives and community negates the need for a lot of government. So, how we live our individual lives determines how much government we deserve.
It starts with personal responsibility in how we exercise liberty. It then extends to our expectations of how others in our communities exercise their liberty and placing demands on them that they do so responsibly (it can’t be by threat of governmental violence though). We must abandon the “Bill Clinton” rule of politics that our society adopted in 1998 to where a politician’s private life is somehow not a reflection of the job they would do for the public. I believe the kinds of “leaders” we’ve had since 1998 has shown us that this policy is lacking and who you are as a father/mother, husband/wife, employer/employee and your personal morals/ethics is paramount to the kind of leader one would be for people he/she doesn’t know and has no connection or natural loyalty to or for. The bar must be raised and the first example of how to exercise responsible liberty must be set by our elected officials.
Liberty may have been forgotten and may have been lost but the government of the people, by the people and for the people is still intact and therefore liberty can be found and it can be remembered. We still have the broad concepts of freedom but let us now commit to remembering, exercising and reinserting the principles of Liberty. It is through living responsibly and finding trust in one another that we can get to the crux of what lies at the heart of all our problems in the community, state and country. Problems do have a source and we’ve been misindentifying all of society’s problems. This extends to our healthcare issues, economic concerns, and the sheer amount we are spending on “compliance” and “force” to control the behavior of our fellow citizens. Trust is at the root of our problems. If we returned to a common value of ‘doing what you say’ and having your “word” mean something then wouldn’t those around you trust you? What if others committed to living this way? Wouldn’t you start trusting them? This is why I believe ‘trust’ is the single most important ingredient to Liberty.
Are we really that different from Moultrie, Jasper and the other Revolutionaries that first waved that flag of Liberty? No. They wanted to govern themselves, didn’t want to be middle managed to death, and desired to pursue happiness without somebody in London telling them how to do that. Are we not the same people even today, regardless of religion, color, creed, etc.? Do we not crave liberty? So, let’s do what you say and say what you mean. Let’s regain each other’s trust.
Let us raise that Liberty flag, once again, as a symbol of our commitment to restart, reinvigorate and restore the principles of personal governance, responsibility and respect. We need to embrace the Liberty flag as our reminder of the difference between ‘liberty’ and ‘freedom’ and be that example to our communities and state. Let Alabama be the example for the rest of the country and show that we, the People, restored ‘Liberty’ to ourselves and did so in a free and peaceful manner during the election of 2018 and beyond.
We rise together. As one.