When I think back on my ancestors and the history of my native soil, I cannot help but think of them without thinking of what W.H. Auden said when he looked to the sky:

Looking up at the stars, I know quite well
That, for all they care, I can go to hell,
But on earth indifference is the least
We have to dread from man or beast.

The soil under my feet cares little what I do, whether I grow food or plant flowers or erect flag poles to march around with my fellows or scorch it with bombs only to bury the dead underneath it soon after. The soil is utterly indifferent whether it is “native” to me or not; the places where my ancestors have lived recently — Poland, Scotland, New Jersey, Minnesota, and Alabama — have never once lobbied me to designate one of them as my “homeland.”

The blood in my veins doesn’t carry any collective memories, pride, or guilt passed down through the ages. Though my blood helps to sustain my body and being, it is quite obvious it will one day return to dust, to the indifferent earth on that day when my world within this wider one comes to an end. Whether or not I am remembered will not rely upon the dirt in my grave or the blood of my progeny but upon the stories my descendants choose to craft and carry in their minds. My love for my father and mother and brother doesn’t exist based on our shared blood; my love for them exists as the fruit of their love and creative action for me. My love for my friends certainly doesn’t rely on my blood, and even though I share the same lineage as some family members, I am not close to them at all.

Indeed, it is not “blood and soil” that gives life meaning, but we who give meaning to such things through creative action and thought.

No doubt, it is easy to recognize the fact that people inherit or create complex tales about their family lineage, land, nation, religion, and culture. We are not born “blank slates” absent a biology, civilization, or the objective world at large. As Murray Rothbard rightfully recognized, individuals do not exist in a vacuum:

“Contemporary libertarians often assume, mistakenly, that individuals are bound to each other only by the nexus of market exchange. They forget that everyone is necessarily born into a family, a language, and a culture. Every person is born into one or several overlapping communities, usually including an ethnic group, with specific values, cultures, religious beliefs, and traditions. He is generally born into a ‘country.’ He is always born into a specific historical context of time and place, meaning neighborhood and land area.”

True enough, and given this context of birth, many people are proud of their history, nation, religion, etc. We need not forget where we come from, but we also need not treat our history and unchosen attributes as prophecy.

Again, here on earth “indifference is the least we have to dread from man or beast,” and we should be wary of a pride so strong it turns to prejudice and partisanship against the universal creative capacity that allows each of us to craft our own stories and pursue our passions in the first place. Let us not confuse that which simply came before us as destiny, certainly not at the cost of failing to pursue new legacies, forsaking path-breakers and peacemakers along the way.

DNA is not destiny. Nation is not destiny. Faith is not destiny. Difference is not destiny. No, our destiny is and has always been our uniquely human ability to reflect upon nature and history, to weigh the good and the bad of our traditions and aspirations, and in the end, choose our own course of action. Unfortunately, for the sake of tribe and pride, human beings have far too often chosen division and war only to excuse this bloody choice as no choice at all — as an inevitable outcome due to narrative differences based on race, nation, family, and faith.

But, if we could instead regard our choices as in fact free, if we could only grant one another due respect for our innate liberty, we would see our differences need not lead to bloody division dressed up in destiny. The great classical liberal insight is that trade and tolerance, exchange and understanding, respect for persons and property can foster peace across the many races, nations, faiths, and families.

Liberty is not a threat to civilization and it need not be the sole province of any particular society. Liberty is the basis of all civilization whether people (especially ruling classes or governments) realize it or not. Liberty is the cornerstone of community no matter how many people abuse and lose it for the sake of faith or tribe, god or nation, blood or soil.

But, liberty cannot be universally imposed; it must simply be recognized and chosen freely; it must be recognized in the particular families, faiths, nations, and histories we create. Thus, we are in this for a long haul. Persuasion on behalf of peace is a never ending game. Patience will most likely be necessary as we hope human beings will find common affection for one another’s creative capacities to craft our own diverse stories rather than surrender to our inherited divisions and tumultuous history.

So, while I wait and try to persuade others to choose this path of liberty and peace:

“If equal affection cannot be,
Let the more loving one be me.”