The Spirit of Freedom

By Kathryn Jean Lopez Published on June 27, 2021

“He has to get a life.”

I’ve cleaned up the actual quote for family newspapers. Disdain would be a kind word to describe the feelings people had for a protester who recently livestreamed his time outside a Manhattan Planned Parenthood clinic. A few people crashed his video to let his social media followers know what a loser they think he is.

The man walking around talking about the murder of the unborn isn’t my style out there, but at least he wasn’t pretending there was nothing grave happening on that particular block. The voiceless unborn should be prayed for, alongside their mothers and everyone wrapped up in the culture of death. The ridicule that passersby resort to cannot mask this pain, and it’s a poor substitute for compassion.

I’m sorry that the young women I saw walking into Planned Parenthood didn’t value the lives in their wombs. I’m sorry that churches and the pro-life movement haven’t been able to get the word out to every single girl and boy, woman and man, about how loved they are and about the resources available to them — resources that would make abortion unnecessary.

A Majestic Distinction

Around Independence Day, I often think of National Review magazine’s late founder, William F. Buckley Jr., and a short talk he gave in 1979. In it he talked about how in the Soviet Union, at the time, there was “an infinitely long list of that which one is forbidden to do.” He added that in China, meanwhile: “One may do nothing — except those things which one is explicitly permitted to do.” And yet, the Constitution of the United States, he said, “and in particular the Bill of Rights, is essentially a list of prohibitions: but it is a list of things that the government cannot do to the people. What a huge distinction: a majestic distinction.”

The voiceless unborn should be prayed for, alongside their mothers and everyone wrapped up in the culture of death.

He went on to say: “It grew out of a long, empirical journey, the eternal spark of which, of course, traces to Bethlehem, to that star that magnified man beyond any power of the emperors and gold seekers and legions of soldiers and slaves: a star that implanted in each one of us that essence that separates us from the beasts, and tells us that we were made in the image of God and were meant to be free.”

A Real Danger

Our country was founded on a proposition: government of the people, by the people, and for the people, as Lincoln reminded us. Today, however, there’s this real danger that our culture is enslaving us and our ability to live in a pluralistic fashion. We don’t see the beauty of the human person as created. We don’t have the same sense of stewardship as people who fought for the right of religious freedom did, perhaps.

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How can we help vulnerable children while still having some fundamental disagreements about when life begins? Can we see the good in each other, even while being bewildered by each other’s beliefs? I can tell you based on some of my “fan mail” that the answer is something like: “Absolutely not, bigot.” But we are better than that, right? We don’t want young women to feel that children, planned or unplanned, are punishments, do we?

What are we grateful for? What could we do better? These kinds of questions are essential as we celebrate July 4 this year. It’s more than a non-socially distanced barbecue this year. It’s an opportunity to begin again in the spirit of friendship in freedom with some humility and patriotic grace, to borrow a phrase from Peggy Noonan — an American who loves the best of her country, and has gotten some grief for it. We can seek the best in common cause for love, life and real, true freedom from the kind of coercive ideology that leads to tyranny.


Kathryn Jean Lopez is senior fellow at the National Review Institute, editor-at-large of National Review magazine and author of the new book A Year With the Mystics: Visionary Wisdom for Daily Living. She is also chair of Cardinal Dolan’s pro-life commission in New York. She can be contacted at [email protected].

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