America’s Lost Virtues – Truth and Freedom

Note: The following essay was originally written and recently submitted as part of application for a Washington DC-based fellowship program. A few edits have been made.

September 18, 2008

America’s Lost Virtues – Truth and Freedom


Ted Burnett

Today, America has severed all diplomatic ties with the virtues of freedom and truth. We now stand for only slavery and lies. This country’s landscape is dotted with churches, temples and mosques. There’s one on almost every street corner yet, most are absent of God’s presence. These glorious structures serve as a cathedral to man’s false gods. Religion, a substitute for a direct relationship with God, is about man conquering man, not man’s Ego “surrendering” to God to know a new freedom, to know a new happiness, to know the promised “Kingdom of Heaven” on Earth. We have all been brainwashed, programmed and filled with fear. We have no faith in Him or in one another.

Our once great nation and this “great experiment” are dead and it has been that way for decades. Our local and state government buildings including city hall, courthouses, statehouses up to the Governor’s office lack all signs of life, of a heartbeat and His presence. This vacuum is filled with man’s endless bickering. Washington DC has the power to put “In God We Trust” on our currency, but they don’t have the will to entrust Him with our worldly troubles. Of course, our problems are of our own making and not His.

God is nowhere, yet His works can be seen everywhere. Man is playing god and his devastating actions can be seen everywhere – in his treatment of his fellow man, towards nature and his respect for his Creator. God is in charge, but don’t tell that to man. God is the source, the Wellspring of our freedom, but try telling that to man with his money, power and fame living out “a celebrity lifestyle.” God is the source of truth, but try telling that to man with his convenient and ever-changing ethical codes. There is no shortcut to the high standards of truth. As Aristotle stated, “Excellence is not an act, but a habit.” A habit of truth produces excellence.

We have the world’s largest economy at $13 trillion and it’s equal to or larger than the next four. Our government throws money around like some bridegroom and his mischievous buddies in Las Vegas for the weekend. We spend more money on defense than any other country. If we are so free, so democratic, so virtuous, what in God’s name are defending ourselves from – the rest of the world, from ourselves, from the truth? What are we getting for our buck? One’s freedom can’t be defended it can only be fought for.

We spend more money on public education than anyone else, yet we find ourselves ranked twentieth in the world. “Excellence is not an act, but a habit.” Ethics is a lazy man’s version of the truth and it clearly shows because of the insensitive actions of man, which are always getting others hurt. Our legal system is boastfully inequitable. African-Americans are quickly, easily and disproportionately being stuffed into the hate-filled and destructive penal system. Our healthcare is the most expensive. Try finding a doctor when you really need one, but have no insurance. We make claims of being a Judo-Christian nation and Pro-life, yet our track record in serving the poor and the sick makes these claims little more than political statements on a back bumper.

We have the highest standard of living (if you want to call it that) in terms our daily consumption of material goods, yet who among us is all that happy? We represent just five percent of the world’s population, yet we consume up to thirty percent the world’s resources, annually. We are an “irritable, restless and discontent” bunch hooked on drugs and we are a constant threat to the world evident by our long history of cloaked CIA-backed coupes, declared and secret wars initiated by this nation of “free people” against countries around the world, like, Cuba, Nicaragua, Panama, Columbia, Korea, Vietnam, Afghanistan, Iraq…

All the while, our government promotes fear in order to control its own “free” citizens – the Cold War, bird flu, Department of Homeland Security with its colored-terrorism threat levels, TSA and heighten airport security, tighten travel restrictions, the global war on terrorism… Politicians and citizens are quick to point out how there hasn’t been another terrorist attack since 9/11. I ask, at what cost – the loss of our personal freedoms. How noble of us to forfeit our liberties. Maybe that should be the penalty when we have bullied the world for so long. It’s more evidence of no faith and lots of fear.

We continue to discriminate even in spite of the founding principles spelled out in the Declaration of Independence. Congress and the President continue to put more and more laws “on the books.” These man-made hundred page legalisms continue to fall short of Jefferson’s insightful words that simply read…

…We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness…

Some two hundred and thirty-two years later, this nation continues to demonstrate its inability to put into practice these sacred ideals. The latest battle is over gays and lesbians seeking their basic rights including the right to matrimony. Has Jefferson not already resolved this debate? This minority group’s biggest opponents claim inheritance to the life (death and resurrection) and words of Jesus Christ. This genius of a man spoke of love, compassion and understanding to all including the excluded while those who upheld “the letter of the law” rejected him outright only to later have him killed. Today, his followers find it impossible to live out his gentle message or to embrace the Spirit of ’76.

God’s law is already expressed, yet this immature and foolish nation continues to struggle with the basic concepts of freedom and slavery, in their broadest terms. It’s no different for the immigrants from Latin America seeking a better life here, in America. Law enforcement agencies at all levels of government are actively and selectively engaged in harassing, chasing, arresting, imprisoning and deporting those seeking their freedom and employment. Our government is playing god. The treatment of this wave of immigrants is no different than it was for groups from earlier times. The groups from Europe and Asia and Africa were also persecuted rejected for various superficial reasons upon arriving on our seashores. Evidently, not much has changed after all these years. We don’t have too few laws “on the books” to address the rights of all people and of every group. We lack heart to do the next right thing.

Freedom is not something that can be legislated anymore than slavery can be outlawed. It’s a feeling felt within; it’s a mindset. Either you are or you’re not. Society, as a whole, is either free or society is not. Even the southern plantation owner was a slave to an economic system and to a social order. His actions were driven by his own fears, by his own slavery, and not out of freedom or faith. Life is either a playground or a prison yard. The latest political battle over gay rights and the treatment of these immigrants clearly states better than any opinion poll or study could where this country stands today on this critical matter for all. To the wise this is the defining issue of our time, for the fools “it’s the economy, stupid.” Jefferson has succinctly spelled out the issue, but will we ever fully comprehend it?

For decades, we have been in a constitutional crisis where this nation’s leadership of 535 + 1 has long ignored their constituents. There is no better example than the Iraq War, which was originally built on lies, manipulation and was thrust upon the American people to swallow like “gruel.” In the beginning, the will of the people supported the troops and possibly the cause. However, by 2006-07, the pendulum swung away from supporting this Administration and this now senseless war with mounting causalities, each day, in favor of bringing the troops home. Today, Congress and President George W. Bush continue to buck the desires of this so-called “free and democratic” people who are tired of pouring the government’s time, money, energy and human lives into a bottomless pit.

Unfortunately, the “freely” elected leaders of the United States believe their temporary powers usurp the lifelong rights of “free” Americans and their will. Being right, saving face in front of the world became more important to losing innocent American and Iraqi lives. This current policy doesn’t sound anywhere close to representing freedom or truth. Instead, “the ends justify the means” – lies and manipulation to achieve some phony, hollow agenda. Several hundred people have the power to burn up the financial resources produced by 300 million taxpayers, due to a lack of accountability. Top-down leadership doesn’t work anymore because our elected officials aren’t free for one second, its time for a sea change.

“The truth shall set you free,” are the recorded words of Jesus Christ from the Gospel of Mark. Truth and freedom are interwoven. You can’t have one without the other. Our current social and political problems are a directly proportional to the freedoms lost including our inability to speak our own personal truth. Sadly, these two virtues are in short supply and even in less of a demand. This situation must change it has to. We are morally bankrupted.

In America, we continue to falsely assume that if you are born here in “the land of the free” then without question you must be “free.” How can this be the case when children of African slaves were born in the South only to be separated and sold off? How can this be the case for “free” blacks were denied their basic rights under Jim Crow laws – “separate, but equal?” How could it be that all women could not vote or have other basic rights? How could it be that all groups only got their rights legally protected upon the signing into law the Civil Rights Act of 1964? The pendulum has now swung back to death, to slavery. Today, Americans are losing our freedoms in order to protect our freedoms against the evil terrorists who threaten to take them away. All the while Americans continue to deny others their basic rights and freedoms. We can’t feel our own loss, our own pain much less feel the immigrants’ or gays and lesbians’.

I regularly call into question our rotting spiritual foundation and the complete obsession and insanity by man to fill that void with drugs – mind-altering chemicals, people addictions, money, power, fame and material goods. These false gods are no substitute to having a true relationship with a personal deity. The leaders of Washington DC like drug addicts who continue to take the easy way out rather than make hard and painful decisions for everyone’s long-term peace and serenity. We don’t want to take any responsibly for past sins, yet they continue to haunt us daily.

Our country is a mess and it shows with the decision of the federal government to take over Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac while Lehman Brothers filed for bankruptcy protection and Merrill Lynch was sold to Bank of America. The latest news on the wire is an $80 Billion bridge loan by the Federal Reserve Bank to AIG (American Insurance Group). With our nation’s two mortgage giants, we have chosen to step-in and bailout another failing system established by man’s best thinking, but also very limited. Once more, man’s reasoning and Ego is trying to save face rather than let the system collapse so we can get honest about what went wrong. It’s too damn painful. We would rather let the meter continue to run, take more sedatives and appear confident before a frenzied media, the American people and the world.

What I write can’t be found on the editorial pages of The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, Time or Newsweek, in the lecture halls of Harvard, Yale, and Princeton, on the floor of the House of Representatives or Senate chambers or inside the Oval office. I write and speak the truth something that the above listed can’t or won’t do. Why, because it would mean so many people, so many Egos admitting to being absolutely wrong about so much. When is the last time you heard your favorite politician, CEO or celebrity admit to being totally wrong about anything? The Ego can’t stand it. All are corrupt just like much of Washington DC, Wall Street and NYC, Hollywood, Las Vegas, Miami, Atlanta, Dallas, Denver, San Francisco, Minneapolis-St. Paul, Cleveland, Detroit, New Orleans… Am I also including this fine organization with its highly accomplished board – just maybe?

It’s my belief that the United States has become unmanageable and is unsustainable for a government of men to effectively manage. It’s too big, too bloated and very corrupt. The buggy is shaking and the wheels are falling off. Only a more spiritual and holistic approach to governing in the interest of all has to be adopted. This approach would mean stepping down from our lead role in dictating to the world. It’s not working anymore.

A top-priority should be restoring truth in all government communication, eliminating all secrets and publicly disclosing all new information that allows the “the will of the people” to be formed and carried out by the Congress and the U.S. Administration in all our affairs, both, domestic and foreign. Restoring public confidence in the Executive, Legislative and Judicial branches are mission critical. This will only be achieved when the people have equal power and the ear of the legislature and the president. Opinion polls of the President and Congress can’t be allowed to languish in the thirty percentile or worst in the single digits. This ship has childishly sailed the forbidden waters of the North Atlantic only to strike an iceberg. We are now sinking and fast.

The country is dead in the water and needs a new direction. We need different thinking not just a new and improved version of the same old ideas. We need different, we need to take a quantum leap and as a dyslexic I do different better than almost anyone. As Albert Einstein, a dyslexic, stated, “No problem can be solved from the same level of consciousness that created it.” With an election (2008) quickly approaching neither presidential candidate is fit for the job, yet our dysfunctional two-party system is dictating to the American public, once again, that these are our two under-qualified choices while spending over a billion dollars convincing us not to vomit in the voting booth.

Was it Jesus’ destiny to change the world? Was it Thomas Jefferson’s (a dyslexic) destiny to draft the Declaration of Independence in a manner that still stands true in spite of countless groups and individuals who have been repeatedly denied their freedom, their basic rights, even today? Was it Abraham Lincoln’s (who suffered from a mental illness – melancholy) destiny to serve as president over America’s Civil War to see it to its end, deliver the Gettysburg Address, emancipate African slaves and save the Union? Is it my destiny to return to Washington DC, to do and say what needs to be said, what no one else has the guts to do or say out of fear?

No doubt its heavy lifting, that’s something I have been doing for much of my young life and I am prepared to do with a subject that I have studied whether school was in session or not. I always show up for class, everyday. It’s a subject of innate interest to me. Our nation has an impressive list of dyslexic political leaders beginning with G. Washington, T. Jefferson, A. Jackson, W. Wilson, JFK, as well as, British Prime Minister W. Churchill. I am too late or does God have me right on time?

To truth and freedom. May God give Washington and America what it needs and not what we deserve.


I am available for speaking, consulting and political advising. My other essays can be viewed at my blog @ All essays are available in a MS Word format upon request. I can be contacted by email:

Copyright © 2008. All Rights Reserved. “America’s Lost Virtues – Truth and Freedom” by Ted Burnett.

 Ted Burnett: I'm an American thought leader and pioneer on the subjects of human, organizational and societal development and health. I write about the role that integrity, dignity, sanity play, as well as, on the topics of spirituality, faith, freedom, happiness, problem solving and risk taking. I produce and deliver original, world-class commentaries on business, political, social and spiritual matters to a global audience of world leaders, chief executives and key decision makers, top faculty and notables in the fields of academia, banking, business, foundations, government (including heads of state, lawmakers and governors), healthcare, media, non-profits and policy institutes. Website: