earlier this year i came off of four years active duty in the united states army. there's a saying in the army among soldiers about to get out: i'm going to go and enjoy some of that freedom i've been fighting to defend. for about a year now, that is exactly what i have been doing.
ncos and officers always seemed quite fond of pointing out that while the united states is a democracy, the army is in fact a dictatorship. it needs to be and i accepted that as a condition of my service. however, nothing grants the appreciation of living in a free and democratic society quite like spending some time bereft of that freedom.
there's a lot of talk from the right about america being a "christian nation", or "judeo-christian" from those being particularly charitable. i'll be honest and admit i do not quite know what that means. i understand that christian ideas of morality and justice and sense of purpose have informed our republic from its earliest stages, but i guess i have a real difficulty envisaging faith as a primarily public entity. faith, and one's relationship with the eternal, is an intensely personal thing; even when one chooses to celebrate that faith publicly. so, even if personal faith is a prime motivator of many individuals in our society, i don't see how that translates into it being the basis of our democracy.
what i do know is this: for me, the fundamental characteristic of america, and of the liberal democracy in general, is the belief in the individual as a self-contained moral and rational being. that is to say, individual human life and individual human freedom is its own justification. i believe that a just society is one that recognizes its citizens possession of these three things, the inalienable natural rights of life, liberty and property. i take this idea straight from basic enlightenment and classical liberal principles.
this notion of individual freedom takes its knocks from the left of the political spectrum, as well. post-modern '-isms', the welfare state, identity politics are all flawed in that they approach the individual first as a member of some constituency. all to often they put natural human rights at the service of some indeterminate notion of "social justice". we are social animals and community is important, but i will not accept the idea that community is something that can be mandated from the top-down. a just society treats people as free-thinking and acting individuals and allows community to develop organically.
so, that's where i'm coming from. i plan to write primarily about politics and culture on this blog. most likely, everything i blog will in some way, shape or form be about the above-mentioned assault on basic human freedoms from both conservatives and liberals. along with that, and from a more pragmatic angle, i firmly believe that our policy ought to reflect these basic principles because it's right and because they work.