- The Washington Times - Thursday, September 11, 2008


Our nation’s founders would no doubt celebrate this year’s historic presidential tickets. Seeing an African American on one and a woman on the other would make them shout “huzzah” or “hurray.” Our founders, however, would notice the striking difference between the presidential candidate’s worldviews. When Pastor Rick Warren asked the ticket toppers about the existence of evil at the Saddleback Civil Forum last month, Republican presidential candidate John McCain decisively cited al Qaeda, the terrorist network determined to destroy America, while Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama highlighted crime on America’s streets - polar perspectives.

Today marks the anniversary of September 11, a day where evil unveiled its mask to conduct highly visible, sensational mass killings on U.S. soil. We call this evil terrorism. Our founders would have called it tyranny, liberty’s archenemy.

“Tyranny brings ignorance and brutality with it. It degrades men from their just rank into the class of brutes; it damps their spirits,” Jonathan Mayhew proclaimed in a groundbreaking sermon on liberty at Boston’s West Church in 1750.

Terrorism does the same thing. It degrades humanity. The desire to abolish Western civilization, the goal of terrorists, is to create chaos. It’s an effort to kibosh what the U.S. Constitution stands for.

The patriots of the American Revolution understood their enemy. “Where Law ends, Tyranny begins,” Samuel Adams editorialized after British troops occupied his hometown in 1768.

Where tyranny degrades, independence uplifts and unites. Businessman Thomas Paine understood this when he published his best-seller, Common Sense, in January 1776: “We have it in our power to begin the world over again … ‘Tis time to part.” On July 4, 1776, the patriots united behind their common enemy and embraced Paine’s prescription. The Continental Congress issued the Declaration of Independence detailing the King’s “[A]bsolute tyranny over these states.” King George III’s offenses were countless: cutting trade, declaring war against his own subjects, imposing taxes without consent, abolishing legislative bodies and many more.

In short, the king was a tyrant because he abdicated his God-given responsibility to uphold humanity’s God-given rights. His oppressive acts of kidnapping Americans on the high seas and hiring foreigners to fight them made him a terrorist.

Where tyranny seeks chaos, liberty embraces order. The U.S. Constitution created a pragmatic but principled federal government. Gone was “Long live the king.” Replacing it was a preamble of the public will: “We the People.” With three branches of government, America traded royalty for representation. What emerged was a government as practical as it was principled. Unity, not the singularity of monarchy, governed their will.

The U.S. Constitution is the most tangible proof that the American Revolution was not merely a war. Independence was a change in the people’s hearts and minds. “This radical change in the principles, opinions, sentiments and affections of the people was the real American Revolution,” John Adams reflected.

Where tyranny cheapens, independence counts the cost. The patriots gave up their quiet lives to live loudly for liberty. Fighting tyranny required them to taste torture, terror, illness, death, financial ruin, fear, uncertainty, failure and other bitter ingredients. Such sacrifices continue. Our U.S. military is living loudly for liberty today in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Because of their sacrifices, we have the freedom to pursue happiness by getting an education, working in a job we love, buying a home, cherishing our families and serving our neighbors. We can freely post blogs, upload video on YouTube and worship the author of freedom if we choose.

The reason why terrorists hate us is simple. They fear that the desire for liberty is universal, transcending generations and continents. And it is. “The cause of America is in a great measure the cause of all mankind,” Paine concluded.

Our Founding Fathers would applaud freedom’s durability manifested in the U.S. Constitution, whose principles and amendments have led to this campaign’s historic presidential tickets. And like Mr. McCain, they would identify terrorism as the greatest evil facing America today. After an eight-year war, they knew that resiliency combats tyranny over the long term.

In 1776, Connecticut pastor Samuel Sherwood defined freedom this way: “Liberty has been planted here; and the more it is attacked, the more it grows and flourishes.” The same is true today.

The steadfastness of liberty is something the next president must fully embrace to successfully wage the war on terror. Messrs. Obama and McCain’s worldviews about evil at the Saddleback Civil Forum reveal that Mr. McCain (embodied by his POW experience) has the best perspective of liberty’s longevity: persistence and resiliency.

Jane Hampton Cook, who served in the Bush White House (2001-03), is the author of “Stories of Faith and Courage from the Revolutionary War.”

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