In the face of tumult and anxiety at home and abroad, I am reminded of the Four Freedoms—laid out in a presidential address in 1941 and made famous by Norman Rockwell in four artistic pieces. They are values we have long aspired to achieve as an American people, not only for ourselves but also for the world. These fundamental principles of liberty—freedom of speech, freedom of worship, freedom from want, freedom from fear—were sustained with the sacrifices of many. They remain worth the fight.
But the most effective defense of these freedoms today is not in war, but rather by practice. The act of simply not taking these freedoms for granted gives continued meaning to them, keeping the fires burning while the dark veils of rain threaten to dampen, tame and exhaust the flames.
It is easy to lose sight of how these values play out in our day-to-day living. Texting or posting freely on blogs, vlogs, and social media are acts that come with cruel consequence in many parts of the world. There are societies where religion—or even atheism—is forced on people.
Even within our own local communities do we endanger these values. When we neglect the poor, the hungry, those pursuing help from terror of any kind—whether they’re bullied, turned away by how we define “acceptable,” or seeking asylum from oppressive reign—we create want, we pour water on the flames of our own hopes.
We cannot allow ourselves to lose sight of how these Four Freedoms affect us each day, lose sight of their importance in a just world, lose sight of how much these values add to the paramount purpose of community—to protect the dignity of each individual member, to love our neighbor as taught to us by several prophets in our history.
This Thanksgiving, be thankful that we are in a time and place where these Four Freedoms are key to our being, to our living. And that our thanksgiving is extended by acting—practicing what we value in our encounters with others.