David Hackett Fischer is a good teacher to listen to on this morning of July 4. I have been getting into his book Liberty and Freedom.
He writes, “A leading scholar of other cultures, Orlando Patterson, observes that ‘non-western peoples have thought so little about freedom that most human languages did not even possess a word for the concept before contact with the west.’ ….The Western world is unique not only in its invention of words such as liberty and freedom but also in having invented so many of them. These words have distinct origins and different shades of meaning. Consider the two leading terms in English usage: liberty and freedom. In early uses, both words implied a power of choice, an ability to exercise one’s will, and a condition that was distinct from slavery. In all of those ways, liberty and freedom meant the same thing.”
Look closely at what Fischer says the words liberty and freedom imply:
1. A power of choice
2. an ability to exercise one’s will
3. a condition that was distinct from slavery
If our leaders were to carefully just read the early parts of Fischer’s book and contemplate what they should do, we would experience a revolution that would far exceed that one which we celebrate on this day.