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News > Commentary - Freedom, truth, and the fourth of July falling on Wednesday
Freedom, truth, and the fourth of July falling on Wednesday

Posted 7/3/2012   Updated 7/3/2012 Email story   Print story


Commentary by Air Force Chaplain (Lt. Col.) Keith Muschinske
JBER Chaplain

7/3/2012 - JOINT BASE ELMENDORF-RICHARDSON, Alaska -- Seems kind of weird, celebrating the Fourth of July on a Wednesday - hump day - right smack in the middle of the week.

Last time it happened was 2007; next time will be 2018. But as soon as the "seems weird" thought crossed my mind, I wondered why.

Why does it seem weird?

I decided it seems weird to me because this "day off work" national holiday has become more about the "holiday" than the "national."

It's about hamburgers, hot dogs and other picnic pleasures. Family reunions and gatherings and parades.

Of course, all things fireworks-able. All those images, all those thoughts, all those plans - all of which usually include the words "long weekend" - come more quickly to mind than the true significance of the day.

Even though our Fourth of July holiday is often summed up by that one word "fireworks," let's set aside our "oohing and aahing" at those high-in-the-sky sights and sounds for a moment and use another word to sum up this day: freedom.

After all, that's what those fireworks symbolized, at least initially. Freedom. Let's take a minute to excavate that word or its partner "liberty", those words often buried in common phrases like "Give me liberty or give me death," or "freedom isn't free," or "certain unalienable rights" including life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

Wait. Let's dig into that last one a bit more.

Recognize it? The second sentence of The Declaration of Independence. The declaration that spelled out actions planned and taken by the colonists through powerful and inspirational words.

The text of the declaration was almost ignored for a time after the American Revolution, having served its original purpose in declaring independence.

But it has indeed come to be considered a major statement on human rights, particularly that second sentence:

"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."

Let's zero in on one word found in this sentence and connect it with our word of the day - freedom.

What word is that? Truth. (Aha! You thought it was going to be life, or liberty, or happiness, didn't you?)

Truth, the singular of "truths," but that which actually becomes the greater "Truth."
And here's the connection with freedom:

Freedom does not mean freedom from truth.

Like freedom of religion, not freedom from religion.

But that's a freedom to be explored another day.

Truth and freedom; the freedom of truth.

So why truth, why now, why in this "week of a Wednesday Fourth of July"?

Truth has been on my mind for two reasons.

The first arose out of a decision recently handed down by our national Supreme Court, reported in Monday's edition of the Anchorage Daily News.

The headline read "Vets' feelings mixed over ruling."

The ruling was that the so-called "Stolen Valor" law limits free speech and is thus unconstitutional.

The result, anyone can lie about receiving a military medal. What do you think about that? Just another example of "freedom from truth?"

But the editorial that really got me thinking about truth and freedom was one by Leonard Pitts of the Miami Herald, reprinted in the Anchorage Daily News last Sunday.

I often appreciate his columns even if I don't agree with him, because he has a way of conveying his opinions that challenges my thinking.

His writing makes me think.

The title of his column last Sunday jumped from the starting blocks faster than a lightning bolt: "Like zombies, lies keep shambling along."

I encourage you to look it up and read it in its entirety, but here's a short quote to further our theme, the importance of uniting truth and freedom.

"These days, facts seem overmatched by falsehood, too slow to catch them, too weak to stop them. Indeed, falsehoods are harder to kill than a Hollywood zombie.

"Run them through with fact and they still shamble forward, fueled by echo-chamber media, ideological tribalism, cognitive dissonance, a certain imperviousness to shame , and an understanding that a lie repeated long enough, loudly enough, becomes, in the minds of those who need to believe it, truth."

OK, I admit it--I pinged Wikipedia for a fact or two while writing this article.

But at best, I consider what I learned to be "a" truth with a small "t" rather than any form of capital-"T" Truth.

So what is my now-much-belabored point?

Never surrender; never give up your search for the truth.

Don't simply take someone's word for something just because it supports your pre-determined opinion or hoped for result.

Consider the dangers inherent in thinking our goal is freedom from truth rather than freedom of truth.

And consider these final quotes about truth on your journey:

"Ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you mad." (Aldous Huxley, English author)

"It is error alone which needs the support of government. Truth can stand by itself." (Thomas Jefferson, Notes on Virginia)

"If you cannot find the truth right where you are, where else do you expect to find it?" (Dōgen Zenji, Zen Buddhist teacher)

"Truth, like gold, is to be obtained not by its growth, but by washing away from it all that is not gold." (Leo Tolstoy, Russian author)

"Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free." (Jesus, recorded in John 8:32)

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