Memorial Day weekend causes most of us to pause for at least a few moments to remember and honor those who fought to provide us our freedom, and indeed those who continue to stand vigil for that freedom to endure. But what exactly is it those who fought and died actually secured for us? And how have we preserved what they provided us?
Life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness – those familiar words from that awesome and precious document sum up the American experience. And yet, that document, and indeed the seemingly enduring truths spoken therein; that manuscript for which so many gave their lives… has been rewritten! Rewritten? Yes it has - at least in the hearts and minds of many.
...where along the way did the “right to pursue happiness” become the “right to happiness”?
Do you remember Don Corleone, the Godfather? He summed up the spirit of America in one short statement. The scene was a meeting with a man who wanted to corner the cocaine market. The Godfather refused to be involved in the drug trade (what an honorable man, huh?), but then he said something profound; something that in a sentence defines America - “I wish you well in your new business, so long as your interests don’t conflict with mine.”
Of course, we don’t wish drug dealers well in their endeavors, but get the point - “… so long as your interests don’t conflict with mine.” THAT, my friend, is America.
America was formed and forged by men who yearned to be free. They weren’t asking for a hand out; just the opportunity to make it on their own… the right to pursue their own brand of happiness. And for a time it was working fine. The West was won, fortunes were made, and anybody that was willing to apply the gifts the Good Lord gave them could spend a lifetime pursuing happiness.
So tell me – where along the way did the “right to pursue happiness” become the “right to happiness”? Perhaps it was the McDonald's commercial that told us that we deserve a break today. That mindset took off like wildfire so that now we are told we deserve a good night’s sleep, and we deserve a vacation in the Bahamas.
Tell me, does every kid in the local soccer league deserve a trophy, even if their team didn’t win a single game? Does every teen deserve a free college education even if his parents sat on their lazy duffs, because they deserved to? And now, if I haven’t dug a deep enough hole for myself, is someone entitled to a new house at the government’s expense because the house they bought a couple of miles from the ocean and 5 FEET BELOW SEA LEVEL was destroyed in a hurricane?
So what do we deserve? Well, first we deserve life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. And if we work hard we deserve a paycheck. And if we use that money wisely (or what’s left of it after the government takes a cut for all those that deserve it), perhaps we will find that happiness we have the right to pursue.
So on this Memorial Day weekend get out there and start living the dream. I wish you well in your endeavors, so long as your interests don’t conflict with mine.
Photo Statue of Liberty used by permission.