Freedom as a habit of the heart — What do you think?

 Battle of Lexington Concord If you’re just joining us, scroll down to look over the four provocative issues we’ve raised this week concerning “Freedom”—especially the 8 statements on Freedom that sparked so many comments (at right).
    Today, I want to raise a deeper issue, though:
    In 1843, a young scholar, Mellen Chamberlain, interviewed Captain Levi Preston, a 91-year-old war veteran from the battles at Lexington and Concord. As told by historian David Hackett Fischer in “Liberty and Freedom,” Chamberlain posed a series of questions to Captain Preston, asking him why he chose to fight.
    Was it the Stamp Act? Preston never saw any stamps.
    Was it the tea tax? Preston never drank tea.
    Was it from reading the great texts by Harrington, Sidney and Locke? Preston never heard of them.
    “Young man,” Captain Preston replied, “what we meant in going for those Redcoats was this: we always had been free, and we meant to be free always. They didn’t mean that we should.”
    Indeed, Fischer concludes, “Most Americans do not think of liberty and freedom as a set of texts, or a sequence of controversies, or a system of abstractions. They understand these ideas another way, as inherited values that they have learned early in life and deeply believe.”
    Freedom, he says, is a habit of the heart.
    Our conversation this week on confirms this view. Freedom is multi-faceted, subject to debate, ever interpreted, changeable over time and across situations – and yet, like cultural DNA that gets recombined and made into something new with each generation, it remains a core value that we easily recognize.
    My thanks to all our readers, especially to those who made comments this week on this elusive theme of freedom and your input on the eight questions I asked yesterday.

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