America Essay Contest: Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness

November 23, 2020 Updated: November 23, 2020

Commentary

The reason I love America and what makes it, and our heritage, worth defending is the freedom we have as Americans. Predating even the United States Constitution, our freedom was spelled out in the Declaration of Independence:

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.

These three rights—life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness—encompass human freedom in all of its glorious aspects.

Life: What could be more basic than the right to life? The right to live is the most basic right and the basis for all freedom. If life is snuffed out before it has a chance to pursue the other two rights, then there is no freedom anywhere for anyone. We live in a world today when it is considered legal to take the life of the unborn if we are dissatisfied with either the idea of having a child or the way the child is developing or just because it is inconvenient to bring another life into this world.

Soon, we may see the legalization of euthanasia, which will permit us to dispose of “inconvenient” parents who become a burden on our lifestyle. My mother came to live with us when she was 87 years old. She was still mobile and relatively healthy at that time. In time she became less mobile and eventually my wife quit her job to look after her. She fell and broke her hip but it hardly bothered her.

What finally got her was she fell and struck her head. She fell because she would not let us put the rails up on her bed; she fought us on this because she wanted the freedom to move from the bed to her bedside commode or recliner chair when she wanted to do it. And we allowed her that freedom.

My mother died at age 92 after 5 wonderful years with us, and the last year was quite a challenge. But her freedom was more important to us than our convenience. It probably hastened her death—I’m sure she would have been safer in a nursing home—but that is the right to life: the right to face life on our own terms and take the consequences, good and bad.

Liberty: The right to liberty is the right to live our life as we see fit. It is bounded by the rights of others in that our rights end when they encroach upon the rights of others. Inside of those boundaries we are free to live our lives as we deem appropriate. This means if you want to become a hermit and live in a cabin in the woods, go for it!

But it is so much more than that. It is the right to decide how, and whom, we marry, or if we marry at all. It is the right to decide how our children will be raised and educated. It is the right to decide where we will work and what type of work we will do. It is the right to live where we want to live. It is the right to support whatever political candidates we think best represent us. It is the right to vote as we see fit. It is the right to live as we decide we should live.

Liberty also means the right to not obey those laws that are against human conscience or unconstitutional. Civil disobedience has a cherished place in American history going all the way back to before the War for Independence with the Boston Tea Party. Civil disobedience springs from the motto: “That government is best which governs least,” something that we in America appear to have forgotten. As Henry David Thoreau said: “I was not born to be forced. I will breathe after my own fashion. Let us see who is the strongest.”

The Pursuit of Happiness: Springing from the other two rights, this right is the culmination of them. To pursue one’s own happiness is the truest measure of freedom and how we find meaning for our lives. We must remember that happiness is a journey, not a destination, and America provides us with the framework to take that journey.

The current actions of destroying our monuments and revising our history, as if by some magic means we can absolve the mistakes of the past by blotting them from our memory, has as its effect the erasing of great men and women, flawed men and women, as we all are, but men and women who built the America we know and love today. As George Santayana said: “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.”

Jim Phillips, originally from Ohio, is a systems analyst for a local financial institution and administrative pastor at his church in El Paso, Texas, where he lives with his wife and two dogs.

This essay was entered in the Epoch Times “Why I Love America” contest.

Views expressed in this article are the opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Epoch Times.

Views expressed in this article are the opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Epoch Times.