As human beings we all have certain common aspects that distinguish us from other types beings, one of which is rational freedom. I believe that it’s essential for us to recognize that freedom is different from liberty, which is the political or public exercise of our natural freedom. America has offered a level of liberty which is unparalleled in human history and I think we’ve taken for granted just how blessed we are with the level of liberty we’ve inherited. Consider Martin Luther King Jr., who I believe lived and died holding onto the distinction between liberty and freedom. He understood that we are all naturally as free as we want to be and that nothing can enslave that natural freedom except for our own ignorance and fear - not a Russian gulag, nor a high level security prison nor the outward circumstance - we are always free to think, if we want to. Martin Luther King fought to bring liberty to a people that were oppressed. He saw that even though they were free human beings with the right to express that freedom through liberty they were both bound by others and themselves. Why does this distinction matter? If we don’t see this difference we will be fooled into believing that we’re simply tools of mass corporations or servants to a consumerist culture or slaves to those more wealthy and we’ll blame others as we remain in our confinement. Though our liberties can be taken by others, our freedom is only bound by ourselves.
A second value has been described as the “Protestant work ethic”. It’s not just about doing difficult work, but it’s also about a vision for the future – building something that lasts. Many immigrating to this country, both legally and illegally, posses part of this work ethic and that is one of the primary things which attracts them to America; they see that hard work has been rewarded here. The willingness of so many immigrants to take the lowest of jobs, just so that they can provide for their families embodies part of this. Unfortunately it’s the second part, about working with a vision to build something lasting that seems to have been mostly lost with the disappearance Postmillennialism within the culture and the church and a growing entitlement mentality, through generations, enabled and nurtured by a fundamentally flawed Progressive vision of Utopia, not by Hispanic immigration.
Third is a value found in The Declaration and inherent in the very idea that our founding political community held some things to be self-evident: objectively clear truth. Our founding fathers believed that some things are clear to reason and these things can therefore be known by all people in all places and at all times (“all men are created equal…”). Whether these beliefs are actually self-evident, is another topic for another time, but we can say that by their statements our founders clearly believed in objective truth. It’s that idea of objective truth that supports a commitment to the rule of law and order in our American tradition by starting with what is clear to all men in order to hold all men accountable – if there is no clarity then there is no objective basis for accountability and obligation. Immigrants see the fruit of these basic beliefs, the liberty and hope, even if they aren’t aware of the beliefs themselves. America is a land of opportunity but to maintain this opportunity we need to understand what our constitutional society offers and why.
The fourth and final value I want to speak about is a simple love for America, not blindly, not merely out of tradition, but because of what America represents and stands for. The ignorance of What we should love, first and foremost, is something that all are guilty of, but the ignorance of what America represents is pervasive. Disagreement on the essence of America has created an ideological divide within our country, leading to a blurred American message abroad and for some a shame and even hatred. Truth, liberty, honest hard work with a vision, and equality based on our humanity, these things are to be loved; these things are what America represents and that is why American should be loved.
These ideas are not genetic traits or racial characteristics and they have been embraced and assimilated by people of all types of racial backgrounds through America’s great history. Quite simply, ideas and natural rights transcend race and these American ideals provide a foundation for individual liberty to flourish, by creating a common ground which can support true ethnic, culture and racial diversity. What is more common than our shared humanity and objective truth? This vision is what makes America unique and produces the beauty of America, which draws the rest of the world to us. It is blatantly clear that some cultures are better than others, when judged on liberty and human equality, blind justice, and the pursuit of the Good, which are the basic rights due all human beings. Working from the founding fathers’ assumptions that some things are self-evidently clear – that truth exists and we can know it – must be the foundation to the debates surrounding our culture, American identity, and immigration and assimilation.
America has been and can be a unity of diversity.