The cause of liberty
“Men born to freedom are naturally alert to repel invasion of their liberty by evil-minded rulers. The greatest dangers to liberty lurk in insidious encroachment by men of zeal, well-meaning but without understanding.”
I woke up this morning with that quote in my head. Supreme Court Justice Louis Brandeis wrote that in is his dissenting opinion in Olmstead v. United States, the 1928 wiretapping case. As I thought about idea of liberty, I recognized why this quote came to mind. I always thought of liberty in that context. That is, until now – until COVID-19.
Today our liberty is threatened not by evil-minded or even well-meaning men of zeal, but by an unseen enemy that is stunningly fast in its assault. Our enemy is not another nation but COVID-19 – an enemy that threatens our lives, our health, our wealth, our right to assemble, our productivity, and a better future for ourselves and those we love.
I’m confident we will win this battle against COVID-19. All Americans recognize when our liberty is threatened: whether Republican or Democrat, African American or Latino, Jew or Muslim, scientist or salesperson, Kentucky farmer or New York investment banker, newly minted citizen or Native American, each of us will strive to overcome anyone or anything that threatens our liberty. It’s part of our DNA.
The American heritage of fighting to protect our liberty is what makes me confident we will succeed in the current battle over this insidious enemy. It is ironic that despite the political chaos and our modern cable news theatrics, we are a united country, united in willing to sacrifice what we must to defeat this enemy and reclaim our liberty.
To be sure, this enemy will claim more lives. In an incredibly short time, there has been much pain and loss of life and there will be additional sacrifices to be made before this battle is over. As I write this, the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation forecasts 220,643 people will be hospitalized on April 15 and 83,967 of us will die in the United States by Aug. 4 (covid19.healthdata.org).
During this extraordinary time, I can’t help but be reminded of Winston Churchill, who in 1940 stood seemingly alone against the ruthless Nazi Army poised to invade England. In the face of overwhelming odds, Royal Air Force pilots, with limited resources and weary from defending Britain from constant Nazi air attacks, day by day and hour by hour beat back the Nazi onslaught and finally succeeded in eliminating the threat of invasion.
Many historians believe their unflinching courage and devotion ensured not only the survival of Britain, but ultimate victory in World War II. In his August 20, 1940, speech in the House of Commons Churchill famously said in gratitude to those RAF pilots, “Never in the field of human conflict was so much owed by so many to so few.”
We might now say the same about America’s first responders against the COVID-19 onslaught – a relatively small group of Americans on the front lines who protect us day by day and hour by hour, our unsung heroes: emergency medical staff, physicians, nurses, medical assistants, medical technicians, ambulance drivers, police, and fire departments. Also on the front lines fighting to maintain our way of life and our liberty are our teachers, research scientists, technologists, and hospital, senior living, government, and food store workers.
Witnessing their courage and knowing all Americans will do what’s required to defeat this enemy, I recall the immortal words of President Franklin Roosevelt that “this generation of Americans has a rendezvous with destiny.” With our liberty at stake, as Churchill said, “we must brace ourselves to our duties and bear ourselves that if we were to last for a thousand years, people would say this ‘this was their finest hour.'”
I know we will stand united and achieve victory over this enemy – not only for our survival but for the cause of liberty for all people and for future generations.
Have courage that, despite what the talking heads on TV would have you believe, we Americans share a rich heritage and tradition: the courage to stand up to enemies who threaten our liberty, the creativity and science to develop innovative solutions for complex problems, and practical know how to deliver the resources needed to ensure our success.
We will prevail.
A former Sanibel resident, Steve Vesce is an executive partner of New York Private Equity Firm, Post Capital Partners. A Churchill/World War II scholar who lectures on those topics, he graduated from Brooklyn College of the City University of New York. Vesce currently resides in Estero.