Friday, April 4, 2008

In Defence of Liberty

One day after 9/11 I was driving to Greenville, Texas, where I was teaching Math. There is a stretch of road where the rail-road is very close to the highway. A train rolled by this morning loaded with military gear. I've seen military hardware on trains in the past and it has always been trucks or cargo. I had never in all my days seen a tank on a train. This morning I saw an entire train-load full of the M1 Abrams Main Battle Tank. It was tank after tank after tank as far as the eye could see. The hairs on my arm stood up and I was stunned to my core. I was seeing a war time deployment before we announced we were going over. When I got to Greenville I asked my students if anyone had relatives in the military. I heard some some say yes, so I asked for a show of hands and half the class raised their hands.

After 9/11, I drove to Fort Campbell, Kentucky, home of the 101st Airborne, to see my niece marry a paratrooper. There were a lot of guards at the front entrance carrying machine-guns. The gun toting guard who inspected my driver's license said, "You're from Texas, Mr. Canright. I am too. I'm from Brownsville, Texas." There are a lot of Texans in the military.

But it takes more than guns to protect our freedom. Our military can only protect us from external threats. There is always the threat that a democracy can slip into despotism. That happens frequently in the Third World and it could happen here if we cease to care about our freedoms or we forget how democracies fail.

Lord Acton is most famous for saying, "All power corrupts; absolute power corrupts absolutely." But we forget that he was a great scholar of democracy. It takes more than a voting booth to create a democracy. To understand democracy, how it works and how it fails, everyone should read Lord Acton's famous speech, The History of Freedom in Antiquity, given in 1877.

I have quoted Ronald Reagan saying, “…freedom is special and rare. It's fragile; it needs protection. So, we've got to teach history ….” The history Lord Acton studied was the same history our Founding Fathers studied. George Washington had a play, Cato by Joseph Addison, performed at Valley Forge to boost the morale of his troops. Cato was one of George Washington's favorite plays. The final lines of Patrick Henry's famous speech in 1775 ("but as for me, give me liberty or give me death!") and Nathan Hale's final words before being hanged by the British ("I only regret that I have but one life to lose for my country") are based on speeches in Cato.

Our children in the 21st century do not know the history of freedom as well as the Founding Fathers did in the 18th century. We need to fix that flaw in their education. Have you ever wondered why do not have leaders today as great as our Founding Fathers? Perhaps it is because the Founding Fathers knew more history than we know today! We need to fix that.

Our children deserve and need the best education we can give them. Please vote for me and I'll do the best I can to persuade the rest of the Trustees that we can improve our children's education.

Robert Canright

By the way, Dr. J. Rufus Fears, University of Okahoma, has courses on audio CD on "The History of Liberty" and "Famous Romans" that are great.
And you might find some videos on You Tube about the M1 Abrams tank interesting.

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