Saturday, September 11, 2010


“Hi, this is Andrew Klavan on the culture.

It’s been eight years since September 11, 2001, the day 19 terrorists murdered some 3,000 human beings on American soil. The murderers were moved to commit their atrocity by an idea—the idea of jihad, which they understood as a Muslim’s obligation to fight against non-believers.

Ideas are interesting things. Like our creator, like the souls he creates, ideas are known to us only by physical means but have no physical presence themselves. They’re not the brain chemistry that conceives them or the words that express them. In fact, while our ideas take the shape of our humanity and our cultural moment, they have a reality and power that transcend both.

Like all real things, ideas have qualities, characteristics. There are true ideas and false ones, practical and impractical, good ideas and bad. According to their qualities, ideas exert a force on human action. A man may be kindly and honest in his personal dealings and yet, gripped by a bad idea like jihad or communism, he may commit acts of dreadful savagery without even recognizing them for what they are. Conversely, a man of a million personal flaws, may rise to greatness by discovering, adopting or promoting a good idea like the sanctity of the individual.

Ideas create a tension between themselves and our behavior—and the resolution of that tension can set the very course of history. Our nation, for instance, once tore itself violently apart because its practice of slavery couldn’t co-exist forever with its principle of liberty.

That – liberty – is the great American idea: the idea that each and every person is fashioned by God with an inherent right to determine his own actions, pursue his own concept of happiness and enjoy the fruit of his own labor. So powerful was this idea in the era of our founding that people chose to risk and even sacrifice their lives in order to give the idea of liberty physical incarnation on American soil.

As our founders knew, embracing the idea of liberty means leaving other attractive ideas behind. You can’t be free, for instance, and all equal, because, set free, some people will excel due to talent or determination or luck. You can’t be free and have guaranteed financial security because some free enterprises will fail while others succeed. And you can’t be free and perpetually at peace because it’s in the nature of some people to dominate others and such people must often be defeated by force.

The price of liberty is great but the gifts of liberty are priceless. Liberty allows each of us to attempt his best destiny, his virtues freely chosen, his faith freely found. Liberty opens the doors of every field to our greatest understanding, because there is no force for wisdom so powerful as an unfettered and independent mind in open interchange with others. Liberty paves the pathway to the fullest realization of our identities, our lives, and our loves, each his own.

It’s been eight years since 19 men in the grip of a bad idea did terrible evil in its name. On this day as at that hour, our idea, our great idea of liberty is under attack. It’s under attack from without by villains who would enslave us by force, and from within by fools who would enslave us softly with misguided promises of equality, financial security and endless peace.

Ideas are interesting things. Like our creator, like the souls he creates, they can, when rightly conceived, lead us even through hellfire to the beautiful and the good. And yet they have no physical presence. They live on earth only insofar as we embody them and only for as long as we are willing to defend them with all the courage and wisdom we can find.

On September 11, 2009, this is Andrew Klavan on the culture.”


Juniper in the Desert said...

Brilliant! Amen.

Always On Watch said...