58. Behar - LIBERTY

ONE OF THE most basic and deep seared desires of man is centered around liberty. Some have even claimed it to be akin to an instinct. When one is bereft of freedom, he hungers and pines for it. Put a man in prison, and even if the place is comfortable and clean, and the food is plentiful and wholesome, he will be unhappy and will yearn for the day when he will be permitted to pass through the gates as a free man. It is amazing when you come to think of it, that even a destitute person will not voluntarily enter a prison where he can get food, shelter, clothing and medical care. The reason is simple: a prisoner is restricted in his movements and activities. He can 't come and go when and how he pleases. A normal human being craves for this privilege of freedom of mobility and action.

Through the many centuries, history has brought us to the realization that liberty is not a gift that is guaranteed us as an everlasting possession. The pilgrimage on the road was arduous and long. Such landmarks as the Magna Carta in the year 1215 when the British nobility forced the king to guarantee the freedom and the property rights of the ordinary citizen; the American Bill of Rights which assured the people of our country with freedom of speech, press, assembly, and religion; the Emancipation Proclamation announced by President Lincoln-all were gained by the will, determination and sacrifice of many visionaries and patriots.

History also reveals that in certain abnormal junctures in the life of a people, freedom can be bartered away for some material benefits or be lost to powerful forces of tyranny. We have seen millions of individuals reduced to conditions of slavery because of the hope of security and bread, which frequently turned out to be cruel illusions.

This is a stern lesson to us to be constantly on the alert to defend our liberties at any cost. The great danger to liberty is lethargy. When people become indifferent, and begin to look upon freedom as a matter of course, when they forget the tremendous efforts and sacrifice that were invested by former generations in the process of attaining its blessings, they give the forces of tyranny and oppression the opportunity to corrode and undermine the national will for freedom, and its total loss becomes a certainty.

There are those who speak of liberty merely as an ideal. They look upon it as a noble word, and they adorn the concept with impressive catch phrases. It is like a toy and a jewel to be played with, talked about, used in speeches and in discussions. But if freedom is to live, it must be more than a slogan and a discussion item. It must play a vital role in our personal and national behavior.

Some people are surprised when they are informed that freedom also implies restraint; that it must be subjected to the rule of law. Thus, for example, freedom of speech does not give one the right to malign anyone or to incite a mob to riot. Freedom of religion does not give a parent the right to withhold medical help from his children when they are in danger of losing their lives or limbs. Absolute liberty without just and proper legal restraints only leads to license and anarchy, which in turn, ultimately lead to loss of freedom.

Freedom also implies tolerance. Without tolerance there can be no respect for the worth of the human person who was created in the divine image. Wherever intolerance has asserted itself, it has brought in its wake tides of misery and suffering. In our own time we were the tragic witnesses of the butchery of millions of men, women and children because of the religious and racial bigotry of the Nazis. Intolerance creates injustice and nullifies the doctrines and principles of all great religions which teach that God is the Father of us all. There is no place for anti-semitism, anti-Black, anti-alien, anti-capital or anti-labor in a society that cherishes human freedom.

This leads us to yet another ingredient which should be taken along on the road of freedom, namely cooperation. Cooperation is the keynote to peace. The United Nations came into being to bring such a cooperative effort about. It is unfortunate that regional and ideological blocks have arisen which mitigate against the basic ideals of the U.N. Charter and have put a stop to the cooperative drive for universal emancipation and peace.

It is the hope and prayer of a world that has witnessed the loss of freedom in many lands, and that has lived through a gruesome, degrading and ugly experience of war, that man will soon be moved by the deep and sacred impulses in his heart to make freedom a viral factor in human society.

To us iii this land, particularly to the youth of America, the appeal is to preserve the noblest elements of our heritage of freedom. We should be careful in what we say and do about those who are different from us, generous in our thoughts and deeds toward those whose pigmentation of the skin is different from ours, or whose parents or grandparents have a different place of origin from those of our own, or who worship God in a different manner or place. We ought to do everything in our power to support the forces that tend to strengthen the bonds that unite us as a people, and to oppose those elements that teach division, disharmony and dissension. We should be ever mindful that freedom is essentially a sacred trust, and that it deserves to be safeguarded and protected with our lives and fortunes.

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