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America – A Way of Life
By Mark Shepard, On Life and Liberty Column Series in the Bennington Banner

October 2, 2001

The bombing of Pearl Harbor marked a defining period for America, as did the Declaration of Independence and the election of Abraham Lincoln, who ran on an anti-slavery platform. All three brought war upon America and all three ended in victory for American liberty. In all three wars, enemies became friends. In all three wars, Americans understood that we were at war for far more than protecting our homeland – we were defending a way of life. This way of life was conceived in 1776 with the Declaration of Independence and birthed in 1787 with the United States Constitution.

Under our constitution, America has become the strongest nation on Earth, while at the same time creating unmatched prosperity and freedom to her citizens. The technological advancements of the last century are a testimony to the effectiveness of America's founding principles. As the oldest written constitution in the world, it has stood the test of time; and its success is no accident. The Constitution was the culmination of decades of deep study into history, philosophy and human nature by a people seeking to construct a government that would maximize human potential.

The Founders recognized the existence of unalienable rights from a source greater than humanity, and they recognized the main purpose of government is to secure these rights for its citizens. American rights are not dependent on the whims and wishes of those holding public office. The Founders also recognized that the nature of humanity does not change. Humanity possesses both destructive (evil) and constructive (good) elements. Society flourishes best when the destructive side is subdued and the constructive side is fostered. Both our form of government and the Bill of Rights testify to the Founders keen awareness of the need to protect and defend against evil influences on government.

Events like last month's terrorist attack draw us back to our foundations. Our federal government has been jolted back to its primary task – protecting the unalienable rights of Americans. September 11 marked a significant increase in Americans recognizing evil in our world and calling on a God greater than humanity.  While a few blame social and economic inequities for this tragedy, the far majority of Americans correctly see this as an horrific act of evil against American life and liberty. The concept of fixed standards, by which we can discern right and wrong behavior, is once again accepted. This act of terror was wrong. The Pledge of Allegiance is reentering schools in towns where it has been removed for years or decades. Patriotic songs are also making their reentry. Flags are everywhere and Americans are proud to be Americans.

As we send our military and intelligence men and women into life threatening situations, it is exciting to see the civilian population reaffirm the foundational principles our fellow Americans are defending with their lives. When they return, may they see an America with her head held high, flags still flying and our focus on maximizing the potential of every American as we live according to those principles that produced the greatest nation in history. God Bless America.

© Mark Shepard

Mark Shepard
Bennington, Vermont


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