On Saturday, before going to Busch Gardens, we decided to go to the visitor center, just off the parkway, and watch the film that orients a newcomer to Colonial Williamsburg. The movie, The Patriot, is the longest continuously running motion picture in the United States. Its principle character is John Frye, a colonial planter, who is elected to the House of Burgesses and then to the General Assembly. Early in his career he meets Thomas Jefferson, Patrick Henry, John Randolph and others who helped navigate Virginia’s response to the Boston Tea Party and frame the origins of the political landscape in Virginia and America.
John Frye considered himself an Englishman and resisted the pull of separating from the King. Not only did he enjoy the culture and traditions of life inherited from the English but he and his family enjoyed tea, wine, fine china and linens. Eventually, however, he saw that in order for his children to live free, as he had enjoyed, it would be necessary to establish a government that was subject only to its own laws. He also understood that to do so would require Virginia to collaborate with other colonies for military strength and for the long-term welfare of each colony. The tyranny of Britain could be overthrown by a coordinated strategy of the colonies and the colonies of the New World could thrive under the leadership of a coordinated government grounded in the principles valued by the peoples in the colonies.
It occurred to me that now, like then, we the people of the United States, may need to let go of a few of our closely held beliefs or habits to overcome the tyrannies we are experiencing. The greatest threat to our freedom, now, seems to me to be fear stoked by absolutism, at home and abroad. Each of us is called, as was John Frye, to examine what we hold so dear that it disables us from collaborating in those efforts that support the definition of freedom for all.