Wednesday, July 04, 2007

A Fleeting Experiment...

There was once an experiment in Philadelphia where a group of idealists met to create a new type of civilization. In one sense it was the beginning of the modern world. The idea was to project the proposition that all are created with equal opportunity for the pursuit of life, happiness, and the pursuit of liberty. These people had fled the tyranny and discrimination of Europe in search of a dream where they could be free to follow the dictates of their soul and conscience. They declared their independence from the old world with a proclamation that would be heard around the world.
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.—That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed.

Even this small group of freedom fighters did not fully comprehend the implications of this brave new experiment. This declaration would be the guiding force for the freedom of all oppressed peoples regardless of race, gender, or creed.

Few in the world thought they had a chance to survive. The odds were clearly against this new nation. Its army was demoralized, often defeated, but inspired by a commander who persevered through severe adversity. In Philadelphia this group of patriots forged a new document that would come to be recognized as momentous for the advancement of humanity as the Magna Carta of 1215. It had taken another five centuries for humanity to unequivocally proclaim that it was the right of all individuals to be free from oppression. Yet it might be another five hundred years for all people to be truly free, if that day ever materializes.

The dream lives on in America, in the United States, specifically. But few realize how fragile this dream actually is. There is no guarantee that freedom will survive.

This dream began with an American revolution that was itself a fragile gathering of a ragged band of soldiers ages 12 to 60 who fought for the idea of freedom. The British forces were superior, even though there were fatal errors in the English structure that would ultimately prevent England from winning the war. After the Declaration of Independence, the American forces met with defeat after defeat, the British Army forcing the retreat of American forces back to Trenton. Even so, there was the occasional victory such as the triumph at Trenton on 25th December, 1776, when General Washington launched a surprise maneuver across the Delaware and captured a large contingent of Hessian soldiers under Colonel Rahl. These tactics galvanized the American army at a time when spirits, materials, and personnel were declining.

After that, the American soldiers almost died of starvation and cold during the winter of 1777/78 at Valley Forge.

One individual made the difference in the war for Independence: Friedrich Wilhelm von Steuben. He brought from the Prussian army the training regimen that had established the Prussians as the most disciplined militia in the world at that time. Their training was far superior to that of the British military. During that winter, George Washington persuaded Steuben to train the American soldiers, and he devised a plan that trained the officers who participated in training the soldiers, making them extremely familiar with command structure and combat technique.

It was this Steuben-trained army that advanced on Monmouth (they first faced disaster when the ranking officer failed to follow Washington's orders). When George Washington arrived, he rallied the soldiers. Their rigorous training paid off as they pushed the English back and took Monmouth. Later they defeated Cornwallis at Yorktown to win the war and leave the English army in shambles.

Yet, it is a fragile dream, one that can vanish in an instant when we regard freedom as our inalienable "right" even as it is dissolving in the face of the most sinister threats yet waged against civilization and all hope of universal freedom. Some may think liberty will endure, but are they, are you, am I, willing to die so that liberty might survive? Are we willing to declare "Give me liberty or give me death!"

Nothing is forever. Past empires, civilizations, kingdoms, and countries have risen to achieve grandeur only to vanish in the wake of cataclysmic destruction or slow erosion. This dream of freedom is a fragile, fleeting experiment. It is an experiment of bringing together people of diversity to create a new union, linked by a shared commitment to liberty and the willingness to sacrifice ourselves so that our vision of freedom might survive.

But it is a matter of Time, spinning like a blackhole where this noble experiment of our fragile species is likely to vanish in the shredding force of an Event Horizon. All civilizations have their own Singularity, their own drifting toward the inevitability of some final destiny beyond their imagination and control.

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