The Dillard Doctrine

Urban Conservative Commentary on Politics & Life

What Liberty Requires: Remarks at the Tax Day Rally for Liberty, Virginia Beach

Liberty. We throw the word around all the time; most often as a reaction to what we feel are challenges to it. But very few understand what liberty really means. Many of us have begun to realize the severity of its erosion, but few see that Americans began relinquishing liberty bit by bit starting not long after our country’s founding.

If I could impress only a single thought on you today, it is this: being a free individual in civil society carries with it a responsibility to maintain liberty.

The concept of liberty – the state of being free and enjoying various rights and privileges without oppressive government restrictions – dates to the 17th and 18th century. Writers such as John Locke believed in natural law: that all people are created equal and inherently possess certain rights. Life, liberty, and the ability to pursue those things that make us happy are conferred by God, and can only be taken by Him. Locke believed government’s only role was to protect those who lived within the constraints of natural law from those who didn’t. If all this sounds familiar, it’s because Locke’s philosophy was the central theme of our Declaration of Independence.

The Declaration recognizes God’s gift of liberty. But as with any valuable gift, its recipients must care for it lest it be damaged or lost. We Americans alone are responsible for the protection and endurance of our liberty, and with that responsibility come certain requirements.

The foundational requirement of liberty is personal responsibility.  Without its exercise, liberty cannot exist. Without an ability to govern ourselves as individuals, the gift of liberty is reduced to nothing. Liberty is not a license to do what we please; it is freedom from being compelled to act against our wishes. Nor is liberty a license to speak about being “free” while making a conscious choice to live solely at the expense of taxpayers. When we stand up and demand our liberty, we are affirming not only the desire to exercise governance over ourselves, but the ability to do so.

We’ve heard it said that the price of liberty is eternal vigilance. It’s true we must watch for constant threats to our liberty, but we also must take action when those threats are identified. When our government decides to infringe on our liberty by requiring us to purchase a service and “penalizing” us if we don’t, or when they seek to undermine the liberty of our children and grandchildren by cosigning them to a nation under debt, it is incumbent on us to do everything within our political power to prevent these things from happening. It is not enough to know that an entity wants to infringe on our liberty; it is our duty to stop such infringements as they occur.

Thomas Paine said “Those who expect to reap the blessings of freedom must…undergo the fatigue of supporting it.” Many of our fellow citizens are blind or apathetic toward government’s continual chipping away at our freedoms. Still others actively assist the assault on liberty, believing that they will somehow win if America is less free. It is up to the rest of us to be vigilant and vocal when liberty is threatened.

In the face of such challenges, liberty requires unity. We will never agree on every issue, and each of us may have our ideal solution.  But in times such as these, there is no room for complete ideological purity – nor should that be our goal. If we shun the ideas of those who we disagree with 20 percent of the time, we will fail in our mission to protect liberty for all.

It feels great to express our frustration at rallies and protests, but we also need to develop an understanding of the issues that we’re protesting against.  It is not enough to stand in the streets and say “no;” we must be able to clearly articulate positions of both support and opposition. The power of the informed citizen is greater than any force that would attempt to stand against it. If we are to truly exercise our liberty, we must know how to use those publicly available tools that show us what our elected officials have done and are doing. And we must not refrain from contacting them routinely, making our preferences known and to holding them accountable for decisions they make on our behalf.

When our liberty is threatened by those outside our control, it requires the commitment of the brave men and women who wear-and have worn-our country’s uniform, and who will, if necessary, lay down their lives so that our liberty is preserved. We thank them for their sacrifices, and we thank their families for “keeping the watch” here at home.

The Bible tells us that “to whom much is given, much is required.” By any reasonable standard, our liberty is one of the greatest gifts that we here share. As befitting its importance, liberty requires work to ensure that it perseveres. Where our elected officials fail to stand up in its defense, it falls to the engaged, educated, and proactive citizen – you and I – to ensure liberty’s survival.

Some acknowledgements: a big thanks to Marshall Smith of the New Republic Patriots for inviting me to speak, and to Teresa O. for editing, rewriting, and organizing my ramblings. And as always, to the family, for having to listen to this over and over (and over!) for the last few days.


Written by Coby Dillard

April 15, 2011 at 4:45 pm

Posted in Speeches

One Response

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  1. I hear you did great!


    April 17, 2011 at 8:41 am

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