A Society Singularly-Focused on Protection of Life Will Fail to Produce Lives Worth Living

The CDC recommends wearing masks to protect yourself from COVID-19. [Photo courtesy CDC]

Let’s stipulate, as lawyers are fond of saying, that life is precious.  Woe to he who dissents.

Yet, it appears that the United States in 2020 has a collective memory failure, for there are principles more valuable than life, itself.

The words of Nathan Hale, the famous American spy, capsulize this concept:

“I am so satisfied with the cause in which I have engaged, that my only regret is that I have not more lives than one to offer in its service,” he is purported to have said.

A man did not give his life away just for his country, but that for which it stands – liberty. A man was willing to give his one-and-only life so others would enjoy the blessings of liberty.  Would he have been so willing to die for a country that did not cherish liberty? I think not.

It is men and women like Hale whom, throughout history, have made America great. Their sacrifices have provided us a freedom and prosperity unknown to most.

But, is it possible that we value it less precisely because we have inherited it? Do we not have the responsibility to care for what has been bequeathed at the highest of prices?  The “Liberty or Death,” speech delivered by Patrick Henry in March, 1775, illustrates this point: “Is life so dear, or peace so sweet, as to be purchased at the price of chains and slavery? Forbid it, Almighty God! I know not what course others may take; but as for me, give me liberty or give me death!”  And, he meant it.

Henry’s speech educated and inspired the Virginia political class and onlookers alike to recognize what is of highest worth. They promptly decided to risk it all, their own lives and the lives of their families, for a shot at liberty. Why? Because they knew what we have forgotten.  That without liberty, we cannot reach our full potential and cannot pursue our individual happiness.  With liberty, all things are possible; without it, we are stunted.

We turn, now, to the recent past.

We have seen in this country a political class that believes its paramount duty is to protect lives. They do not grasp their duty.

How many times has this reasoning been offered to subvert freedom? Yet, we believe them because we, too, are ignorant.  Do they swear an oath to protect and save as many lives as they can when they take office?

Their highest priority — and our’s — should be living up to the oath of defending the Constitution.

It is this oath that has, and will, save more lives than  any other narrative.

The Constitution was ratified to support the ideals in the Declaration of Independence, which makes it abundantly clear that the primary role of government is to protect our unalienable rights.

The Constitution is set up to limit government’s powers so it cannot infringe upon these rights. Life is  among them but it is not preeminent.

Students of history know this well.  We take, for example, the Civil War.  If the primary role of government were to protect life, we would never have fought that war.

President Lincoln honed this point in the Gettysburg Address. “(W)e here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain; that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom; and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.”

Wow!

Our 16th President was willing to have this nation go through the slaughter pen that we might maintain principles of liberty and maintain our republic of, for and by the people. He would be ridiculed today by mainstream media.

The president’s priority was saving the Union, then freeing slaves. He demonstrated he was willing to sacrifice as many lives as needed to meet those ends.  If life had been his highest priority, our nation would look much different today.

As for today? If life is our highest priority, and fear is to govern our every move, the country will certainly behave differently tomorrow.  Goodbye, liberty,

The human toll during the Civil war was staggering.  Three million combatants, according to new data, suggest a death-toll of 750,000 and a like number of casualties. The dead, in other words, amounted to over two percent of the population of 31 million. That is 500 people daily for the war’s duration. To calculate that in today’s terms, multiply everything by 10 and you will start to get an idea of just how costly the war was at the time.

In today’s terms, the human cost of that war: 5,000 daily for four years.  All this would could have been stopped if ideology were put aside; it’d have taken merely a flag-of-truce above the ramparts.  But, there were higher principles at play than merely preservation of life.

The mere question is cruel:  Does anyone want another to die from the corona virus?

Of course, not. But, have we forgotten the precious nature of our liberties and the costs expended to obtain them?  We have neglected to weigh collateral damage and the precedents by our actions or idleness.

No, that doesn’t mean people must be sacrificed in order for us to get through this crisis. Rather, we must tout liberty and other principles embedded in our nation’s history and detail the costs incurred.

Allow me to get personal.

My father-in-law was at the Chosin Reservoir during the Korean War. His company of Marines started off with 120 before the battle and walked out with 18.  Was the preservation of life our highest priority there? The mission came first while trying to minimize the casualties along the way.  The result today is a free South Korea that stands in stark contrast to its less-fortunate neighbor to the north.

Today, we need to reflect on our reaction to a virus dangerous to a few but benign to most.

Questions must abound:

Has “life-at-any-cost” become our aim? Should fear govern our behavior? Are we willing to surrender our unalienable rights so cheaply? Are we to permit government, at any level, to exercise arbitrary power instead of what has been expressly delegated? Is government to decide what powers it has? Have we lost the ability to think for ourselves and manage our own risk?  Does giving up these freedoms really help anyway?

Is what we are doing sustainable? Can we afford $7 trillion more if there is an outbreak in the Fall? Are we convinced that control from top-down is best? Have the experts and the government been correct, so far?  Do we really think we can centrally plan our way out of this? Have we considered what the collateral damage might be? Have we changed courses at all with new information coming in? Do we really want to live in a society where government determines what is essential? A society in which we are told how far apart we must be? How many people can gather? Where we can bathe, swim and play?

It stuns me to think I am asking these questions of Americans.  There was a time when even the thought of government having so much power would have driven Americans to arms; yet, here we sit and acquiesce.

How about giving our first principle, liberty, a try?

It has not failed us in the past. People who want to go out can go out. People who want to eat at a restaurant can eat. If you want to go to the beach, go. If you want to stay shut in that is your right, as well. If you are high-risk and it warrants staying in, then society ought help. If you are just afraid because that is what people tell you, then it’s time to wake-up!

Let’s remember what it means to be an American.

To me it means we value our freedom and the opportunities it brings over all else, including safety, security, comfort, convenience and lifestyle.

If you do not believe in liberty’s rightful place you may be an American, but you are no patriot. You have decided to build your house on the shifting sands of fear but without foundation.  You have forgotten your own history and know not what has brought us, safely, this far.

My plea is for you to come back to the fold.

Our house is built upon the firm foundation of wisdom, based on experience.  It is built upon eternal truths found in the Declaration of Independence. It is founded upon what made our country great and the only thing that will continue to make it so for generations to come.

About Jeff Utsch 25 Articles
Jeff Utsch is a Leadership and History Instructor at the Leadership and Freedom Center in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, where he teaches leadership lessons learned from the battle and forging trusted teams and leaders. Jeff also teaches professional development and "leading with a purpose" courses to law enforcement and other agencies around the country.He is the Founder of Heirs of the Republic Educational Foundation a 501(c)3 organization dedicated to “Securing the Blessings of Liberty to Ourselves and Our Posterity.” He previously served as a Director and Ambassador for the Navy SEAL Foundation, where he assisted in establishing an endowment within the Foundation. At the Foundation, Jeff chaired the Development Committee and organized and assisted with benefit galas in Tucson, AZ, Coronado, CA, and Virginia Beach, VA. He also has 27 years’ experience as President and CEO of a small company and 25 years’ experience training U.S. military personnel.Jeff graduated from University of Arizona in 1991 with a Bachelor’s Degree in Aerospace Engineering, where he also served as captain of the Swim Team. During his swimming career, Jeff was a member of the US National Team 1984-87, Top 10 World Rankings 1984-1988, and NCAA All-American in 1988. Using the skills, he developed as an All-American swimmer and Captain of the University of Arizona swim team, Jeff currently serves as an Instructor to the Navy SEALS/Naval Special Warfare community where he teaches Navy SEALS and support personnel specialized tactical swimming. In addition, Jeff has taught Air Force Para Rescue Jumpers, Combat Controllers, Force Recon Marines, Coast Guard MSST, and other military personnel.