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Live free or die: Death is not the worst of evils.
The phrase ‘Live Free Or Die” (the motto of the State of New Hampshire) has been bantered around a lot for the last few years, often in ways that directly assault the country in which we live. There are times when Americans lose an understanding of what freedom means and the deep meaning of these words. For me, the Russian attacks on Ukraine brought these words to mind once more but in a much deeper, much more personal, context
From the beginning of the Russian invasion, the country has attempted to forestall any militant reaction by the West by threatening to use nuclear weapons – and threatening it in the most damning words possible. This seemed extremely effective as my Twitter stream filled immediately with “…but that will mean World War III!” It was disturbing to me how many people seemed ready to immediately abandon the people of Ukraine in hopes of protection against a nuclear threat and prevention of World War III as they saw it. For many reasons, I think they lost sight of the desperate future promised by such a retreat.
World War III
In some ways, we are already involved in WWIII. It is simply that it doesn’t look like we thought it would. As in the past, it has started with conventional weapons, but most everyone seems to know that escalating the conflict to nuclear attacks means death for nearly everyone. There is no winner, no loser, just death. It think this is why I fill Russia’s threats mean little. It would take not just one madman, but hundreds of them to effectively execute an attack and I don’t believe there is any will for that to happen.
It seems very clear to me that there is little we can do about these nuclear threats except to see them for what they are – an attempt to make the entire world so fearful they will refuse to act against the most damnable of atrocities. Like a schoolyard bully that threatens to beat you even worse if you tell your teacher, they hope to cow you into a slow “death” instead of an immediate one, but which of these is truly worse, and which one are you willing to live the rest of your life with?
I Refuse to be Bullied
When these threats were first made, my mind, too, flashed to horrific images of nuclear death, but over the next few days, I began to see exactly the bullying that was being attempted and the decisions that lay ahead. The words “Live free or die” didn’t occur to me at the time, but I see now how they brightly illuminate our situation.
For me, to do nothing while Ukraine burns is a far worse fate than to do something and risk, even in the smallest way, a nuclear attack. If I am going to die, at least let me die having attempted to do the right thing. To die anyway, after doing nothing, after trying to protect my own safety at their expense, would seem a useless death indeed and one that, should you believe in an afterlife, be deeply, karmically, damaging. I would have failed in my basic humanity.
Do The Right Thing
Doing the right thing is NEVER easy. I am sure you have seen situations in your life when it has been the hardest things you might ever do. Doing the wrong thing if often the easier road to travel. Going along to get along, ignoring evil, and averting your gaze often seems easier – and safer – in the moment, but amazingly more harmful.
Let us look now at a new resurgence of the phrase, along with its more complete form, “Live free or die: Death is not the worst of evils.” Death is not the worst of evils. Apathy, ignorance, hopelessness, hatred, total self-interest, fear, and weakness are just a few.
If we let this bully win, if we do nothing, we will be subjecting ourselves – and everyone else – to a future of slavery to the whims of one man, one people, one country, forever. This is not a world I want to live in. I do not want to see the future atrocities this will cause. I want to believe that the world can be a better place than it is and that if we look evil in the face, look deep into its eyes and say NO, then we will have fulfilled the “…better angels of our nature.”