By Stanley Zir
When the Puritans lived in England they
were persecuted for their religious beliefs. The Church of England
prohibited them from worshipping in their own way. There was no debate
about the validity of the Puritan's doctrine. They were considered
heretics by the absolute power and authority of the Church, exercising
the power of the Status Quo.
The Church of England believed in
Christianity. But was it the teaching of their founder to persecute
others, lock them up and take away their freedom simply because their
beliefs were different? In this case, if they had cared to see, their
own professed beliefs would have acted as a mirror to expose their
hypocrisy and evil.
Having the chance to resettle in America
the Puritans acted. If they had stayed in England, the Church and the
have destroyed them because of their beliefs and because they did not have
the support from the general populace at the time.
What happened to the Puritans and their
choice to settle in America set in motion a wave of determination so
great it not only became the driving force of the development and
character of American society but it also became the impetus for the
spreading of human rights and democracy worldwide.
Why was this force so powerful that
nothing could stop it from displaying its indomitable resole in the human
spirit? The Church of England tried to suppress the individual in their spiritual beliefs, their private domain, the seat of
life where all people inquire about their own existence. It tried to
imprison their mind, the seat of judgment which is the main driving force to discern good from
evil. This triggered a chain reaction that would release the flow of individual rights, that
would saturate the American
psyche, thus becoming the driving force that would shape our history and become the standard of behavior to protect what
is most noble in humanity.
Now the seed was planted, from that
time on the given right of the individual to stand up and defend himself
against any force or system that would subdue his rights was set in
motion. This phenomenon where noble ideals continue to rise up even from
the ashes of our own indignities is uniquely American. The fact that we
continually champion the cause for individual rights under any
circumstances is what makes our struggle so important to the world's
social structure and its future.
As time continued, many other people
came to this country, some for political reasons, some to escape
prosecution and persecution, some for economic reasons, and many were
forced to come here and be sold as slaves. Soon many different colonies
were formed containing people from all parts of the globe, but still the
English maintained an oppressive social and economic grip over the
colonies. The colonists were an independent lot and there was no way
they accepted the Church of England or the aristocratic social structure
as something they could embrace.
This became apparent in the War of
Independence, which produced documents such as the Declaration of
Independence and eventually the Constitution and the Bill of Rights.
These would confirm that the foundation of the country was the focus on
individual freedom. This was a far cry from a monarch and aristocracy
where the people were neither empowered by charter or even given the
right to hold their own leaders accountable for their actions. Through
this struggle a government was formed by the people and for the people
where the leaders would be directly accountable to its citizens.
Jefferson stated in the past people
were never empowered to censure or punish their leaders and those that
would even raise their voice in protest were considered traitors.
This right is of central importance
because it truly defines the core of our social and ethical system,
which had set us apart from the rest of the world. The Constitution
provided the separation of Church and State. Now the government became
the blanket under which all people could have their own beliefs, the
freedom to speak out without fear of backlash from any group, religious
institution or the government itself.
The government was structured to
protect and defend the rights of all the people. Thus it became the model
that influenced thinking so deeply, that it would give rise to the movement
structures in both the secular and religious realm in the twenty first century.
This is in direct concurrence with the
spirit and teachings of great religious leaders where
the integrity of the individual is to be cherished and protected. These
founding documents would be the foundation for the rights of each individual and
would be the building blocks of a new emerging civilization where the
people are empowered to keep those who are in positions of authority in
check, in other words, to keep the status quo in check.
Even though these documents were
founded to protect the rights of the individual there was still slavery.
These Americans of African descent were considered 3/5 human. Now the
Church in America became hypocritical. Not only did their own religious
doctrines mirror their hypocrisy, but the Bill of Rights exposed their
evil. They had condoned and even protected the idea of slavery. But the
force of individual rights and the integrity of individuals continued to
drive forward and now that it was written into our sacred founding
documents, such hypocrisy could not last.
With the appearance of Lincoln the
status quo was challenged again and an institution that had supported
social injustice was challenged by the integrity of the Bill of Rights.
With that established, the indignity of slavery gave birth to the Emancipation Proclamation. Again the status quo was put in check by our
sacred doctrines and the people who chose to speak out, protect and
honor them. The gap between the doctrines of the people and their
actions now became smaller.
Amazingly, this driving force keeps
moving forward like a raging current that has only one purpose: to wash
away all that is evil and perverse.
Throughout the twentieth century this
force continued to gather momentum, drawing into its vortex all manner of movements:
women's rights, civil rights, worker's rights - the list
goes on, the roar gets louder! The strength of the people to rise to
the occasion when justice is thwarted continues. Now the seed planted over two
hundred years ago honoring the integrity of life
and the individual, acts as the flag for our invincible fortress, a
fortress that eternally protects all humanity from the advancement of tyranny
and terrorism. This ideal alone is what directs our destiny and defines us as
America remains the great enigma to the
rest of the world. How can a country that is so young give birth to a
process that is so profound and so advanced? The answer lies in the fact
that all countries in the world throughout history except America are
homogenous where the system's main stress had been on the group, not the
individual. Within these systems many individuals have had to sacrifice
themselves to save the group or save face of the community even at the
expense of their own integrity. An individual in those systems rarely
questions authority and in the rare cases that it happens, the person
finds himself cut off or ostracized from the community where the social
trends acquiescing to authority is the only acceptable behavior to keep
the society unified and in harmony.
But America emphasizes the development
of a strong, outspoken individual as the makeup of the group and nation,
who would willingly, if necessary, give their lives to protect the
integrity of the individual and their freedom first and foremost. We do
not keep silent or acquiesce or sacrifice our lives and dignity to
support any people or group that would trample on the rights of the
individual, claiming to preserve and protect our nation.
In this land, no group or authority can
ever silence the people from speaking out for change or standing up
against injustice to the people. This process will never cease. Only you
can have the choice to exercise this right and etch your life in
glorious victory for all the people. This is your choice, your privilege and your responsibility as free people.
America knows how to put the status quo
in check. This is our nature. It is in our blood. It is what keeps our
hearts pure. We have taken the bold step to honor the enlightenment and
the development of the individual as the key building block to a new