The True Price of “Free” Society

…because while the pen is almost certainly mightier than the sword, the sword still cuts deep…

A zeal for different opinions concerning religion, concerning government, and many other points, as well of speculation as of practice; an attachment to different leaders ambitiously contending for pre-eminence and power; or to persons of other descriptions whose fortunes have been interesting to the human passions, have, in turn, divided mankind into parties, inflamed them with mutual animosity, and rendered them much more disposed to vex and oppress each other than to co-operate for their common good. “

~ James Madison, The Federalist Papers No. 10, 23 November 1787


If democracy is dangerous, civil freedoms are downright deadly.  We have only to look at attacks, not just in Paris, but all over the world both in modernity and throughout history to see the stark evidence that freedom kills.  And of all our vaunted freedoms, none is more lethal than the ability to put pen to paper (or character to screen as the case may be).  Words and images are powerful.  They have power that cannot be contained or confined.  Once they have escaped the clutches of those who would confine or silence them, pictures and prose cannot be captured again.  They take on a life of their own.  Those whose zeal for different opinions begins and ends with their own opinion cannot stand up to the insidious power that free speech brings.  Tyrants and dictators, demagogues and ideologues will never accept the idea that everyone be allowed to say as they will because it is these creatures that free speech slays in the night without ever lifting a weapon.  Put another way, if the Prophet Muhammed is made to be ridiculous, then Islam matters naught, and is not worth living or dying for.  And those dependent on terrorism to impose their way on others cannot have the rank and file discovering that perhaps another way to view their faith exists.

The Founding Fathers understood the great power of the pen.  It was words and ideas that started the American Revolution.  Patriots’ pens put words to paper long before the British ever realized how completely out of hand the situation had gotten in their backwater little colony.  By the time the actual fighting began, America had already existed as a concept in the minds of the colonists for generations.  Threatened with their very existence being taken from them and thrown back into the mess of other British colonies, there was but little choice than to stand up and declare to the world what had already existed in their pamphlets and hearts ~ “we are a free people, and this a free nation”.  And despite knowing this to be the most dangerous of all rights, the Founders knew it to be the greatest.  They bequeathed it onto us, and we, in our turn, shared it far and wide.  There is nothing sadder or more pathetic than the idea of a sword cutting down a pen.  But the victory will always be hollow, because in striking him down, it will always be the pen that lives on.

Res Publica

Documentation without Representation:

James Madison, The Federalist Papers No. 10, 23 November 1787 (emphasis added)

Electronic Text Courtesy of The Avalon Project at Yale Law School

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