Key Principles of Democracy in America: The Principle of Liberty
There is, within the heart of America, a spiritual vibration that contains the highest ideals of mankind concerning life, liberty, and freedom for each individual life. This nation, founded on the principle of self-determination for a country which had its own needs and requirements apart from its historical origins, is also the embodiment of the principle of self-determination for individual souls. From the beginning, the national undertaking and the spiritual undertaking for each individual soul have been wedded to each other, and one liberty has been dependent upon the other.
For a time, the fact that liberty actually applied to only a certain section of the population and not to the rest was not given much weight by those who founded this nation. This could only be the case because despite their illuminated consciousness in many respects, those who founded this nation were also products of their time, and much that now seems anachronistic and out of keeping with our modern definitions of liberty, were taken to be part of the natural order of things at the time. Thus, the disenfranchisement of African-Americans, of Native Americans, of women, and of other portions of the population that were reduced to illegitimacy seemed, at this earlier time, to be part of the natural order of things. America has had to travel a long distance to recognize that the principle of liberty applied to all equally, and that it could not take root if it made exceptions based on cultural premises that favored one group over another. This exclusiveness made it a founding principle in name only.
Nevertheless, a struggle has always been present and continues to exist within the national consciousness concerning the degree to which liberty and self-determination can be accorded to each member of the populace, and some exclusions have had an easier time giving way than others. For example, the enfranchisement of women, when it came about in the second decade of the last century, though it may have met with grumbling and disapproval, nevertheless became law without much difficulty in the end. It was a movement whose time had come.
Similarly, there are groups of people who, today, are free in name only. Those who are the victims of abject poverty, those whom existing social services do not provide for or provide for inadequately, those who cannot gain entrance in a legitimate way to a country in which they have lived for many years, those whose rights are taken away because they are perceived as belonging to a foreign culture with whom we are at war, or, if not at war, than with whom we are engaged in hostilities. And, of course, those who have been accused of harboring malevolent intent toward this country. All of these become unfree, not because they are imprisoned, but because they are deprived of equal status and equal rights as human beings
Wherever exclusion around the principle of liberty occurs, there, too, does the republic of America become weaker and less aligned with its founding vision and spiritual strength. Not only does such exclusion perpetuate direct harm and discomfort to those who are deprived of their liberties. It also perpetuates direct harm to the social fabric of America that can no longer believe in its ideals, but instead must see itself as lowering its standards to achieve its ends through any means necessary. This is the mentality of a criminal, not the mentality of a noble and sanctified nation.
In the end, the capacity of America to uphold the right of self-determination for all, which includes the rights of those who are considered hostile toward America and the rights of the incarcerated, will determine whether America can actually be called the 'land of the free'. Only when liberty becomes an inalienable right - not liberty to commit crimes or liberty to avoid justice and responsibility before the law - but liberty to be accorded the rights and dignities of each and every human being without exception - only then can America be the land that it is meant to be according to the founding inspiration of those of the light who conceived the status of nationhood and envisioned what America would become.
Let us not, therefore, spend more time speaking of the 'land of the free' as if it were a fixed entity, incapable of growth and incapable of being diminished. This is not and has never been the case. Let us speak of the 'land of the free' as something that must be guarded and protected, not merely from others, but from our own tendencies to diminish the freedoms that we hold in trust when it becomes convenient to do so. In place of this diminishing, let us, instead require of ourselves an allegiance to the pursuit of "life, liberty, and happiness" for all, not just for some, and let us seek to build a social structure that will support this commitment and hold within its embrace, all citizens of the republic of America, rather than just a self-chosen few.