A French dude with a long name – let’s just call him Max, for now – espoused a secret that got him killed during the French Revolution.
It is ironic that it caused him so much difficulty since in America whose revolution preceded his we embraced his secret. We will talk about the difference between the two revolutions in a minute, but first his secret.
Max spoke eloquently and often about this secret at every opportunity he could, which eventually forced him to place his head in a guillotine because the political leadership in his country thought it too dangerous. During the 1790’s in France, this secret exposed a radical idea to the French populous on how to ensure their nascent freedom.
At the young age of 36, Maximillien Robespierre, a French statesman, was indicted and guillotined by the elites of his country for not shutting up about this secret. So much for freedom of speech in France.
In America, we shouted out this secret. We reprinted it. We made sure everyone knew it. We enshrined it into our national psyche. It became a way of life for Americans in understanding how freedom in the world works.
Ask yourself, was it subversive? Here is what Mr. Robespierre said:
“The secret to freedom lies in educating people, whereas the secret to tyranny is in keeping them ignorant.”
The secret lies in education.
School is not the critical place for the education of freedom. Understanding and appreciating America and her liberty should, of course, be taught in our school system, but it should not stop there.
The point is that educating ourselves about freedom is a continuous life project.
Learning about our freedom takes place at events in which we participate, in the reading of books, and in the news delivered through papers, radio, television, and social media. Beyond all that, parental attitudes make the biggest difference.
If the principles of freedom get blurred in our children’s eyes, we are left with the second part of the secret. Tyranny. We must be careful that we are not educating to ignorance, planting the seeds of tyranny however soft.
The freedom and liberty we enjoy in America was not a natural outcome of revolution. The secret Max touted was welcomed by the leaders in America yet rejected by the upper political class in France. Why?
The French Revolution was not the same as the American Revolution. In France, liberty came from human reason, while in America, liberty was rooted in the Creator. That is a huge difference.
When we evaluate our continuous lessons in freedom today, whether found in our school books, in the pages of our newspaper, in our community discussions, in the singing of our National Anthem at events, or in the words “In God We Trust” emblazoned on all our currency, we can see that the underlying message of our liberty in America is not merely a set of human privileges created by the wisdom of our leaders but eternal liberty given to men and women by God.
Robespierre instilled an idea of freedom in the common people through his oratory. He touted the strength of “reason” to spur a world of equality and liberty. That was the source of France’s revolutionary cause. That was his secret. It only went so far.
Americans acknowledged a far deeper and richer source for our liberty.
If the secret to freedom is education, then what kind of education? The type of education that recognizes The Source of liberty that is the real secret.
Eugene Harnett has raised five children in Eagle River, owns his own business here, and has been involved in local and state affairs since 1988. To reach Eugene, email email@example.com