This is especially critical now, since pundits from all corners have forgotten what freedom means. As a consequence, we have been slipping towards more authoritarian forms of government for the better part of the 20th century. We can stop it, if we simply grasp the idea and apply it decisively.
Sometimes it takes an outsider to appreciate what we have, and to remind us of what we need to defend. This is the case with Russian-born novelist and philosopher Ayn Rand, who said:
Since knowledge, thinking, and rational action are properties of the individual, since the choice to exercise his rational faculty or not depends on the individual, man’s survival requires that those who think be free of the interference of those who don’t. Since men are neither omniscient nor infallible, they must be free to agree or disagree, to cooperate or to pursue their own independent course, each according to his own rational judgment. Freedom is the fundamental requirement of man’s mind.
A rational mind does not work under compulsion; it does not subordinate its grasp of reality to anyone’s orders, directives, or controls; it does not sacrifice its knowledge, its view of the truth, to anyone’s opinions, threats, wishes, plans, or “welfare.” Such a mind may be hampered by others, it may be silenced, proscribed, imprisoned, or destroyed; it cannot be forced; a gun is not an argument. (An example and symbol of this attitude is Galileo.)
It is from the work and the inviolate integrity of such minds—from the intransigent innovators—that all of mankind’s knowledge and achievements have come. (See The Fountainhead.) It is to such minds that mankind owes its survival. (See Atlas Shrugged.)
Freedom means the freedom to think, to act peacefully, and to keep the rewards of such thinking and acting. Look at the daily news; does this sound like our current state of affairs? Does our government respect and protect our right to think and to act? Or does it expect obedience and self-sacrifice?
Our culture retains a fragile grasp of the link between thought, action and freedom when it comes to free speech, but we have forgotten how it applies to property and to economic activity. We have arrived at the point where our government is literally managing our economy and its largest businesses. Does that sound like respect for the mind, and for individual thought and action? If we don't respect the human mind, how long do you think we will be able to retain its many benefits?
To get the country back on a proper course, and to regain our sense of what freedom means, we need to respect the heart of its origin: the human mind. Without respect for individual judgment and our right to act on it, we cannot defend freedom, and we will lose what we have left of it. Let's honor the fallen by taking the time to understand what they fought and died for, and to carry it forward in their place.