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All the statement “it is better to die shouting than to live without a voice” means is that it is better to fight and die for your principles than to exist meekly and passively without those principles. If the issue is freedom itself, it is better to die in defense of liberty than to submit to dictatorship. This sentiment, common to American military men and women sworn to defend the nation, was most noticeably voiced – at least in the context of American history, by Patrick Henry. In a famous speech in Richmond, Virginia on March 23, 1775, with revolutionary fervor building but the colonies divided on whether to engage British forces in combat, declared that liberty was a cause for which death was an acceptable price:
“It is in vain, sir, to extenuate the matter. Gentlemen may cry, Peace, Peace-- but there is no peace. The war is actually begun! The next gale that sweeps from the north will bring to our ears the clash of resounding arms! Our brethren are already in the field! Why stand we here idle? What is it that gentlemen wish? What would they have? Is life so dear, or peace so sweet, as to be purchased at the price of chains and slavery? Forbid it, Almighty God! I know not what course others may take; but as for me, give me liberty or give me death!”
During the 1980s, many politically conservative Americans rallied around the notion of “peace and freedom” to contrast their views with those who argued for a more passive approach to confronting the Soviet Union. The captive nations of Eastern Europe, for example, Poland, Czechoslovakia, and Hungary, were peaceful, but they certainly weren’t free. Henry’s point, and that of others over the years, was that peace in and of itself is insufficient for human fulfillment. One must be ready to sacrifice oneself for freedom. Similar to the conservative mantra, many liberals also argue that the preservation of rights may demand what President Lincoln famously called in the Gettysburg Address “the last full measure of devotion.” To die free is better than to live a slave. That is the meaning of the “wise man’s” adage.
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