This truth prevails: nothing lasts forever. “Grass withers and flowers fade,” is how the prophet Isaiah described it.
Memories molder and resolves rot. Men and women are born and die. A few reach for greatness and manage to grab the brass ring. They lurch for immortality by the books they write, the speeches they deliver, and the buildings that bear their names. But these are but shadows of memories stolen by time, for we cannot escape the truth that “there is no remembrance of earlier things; and the later things which will occur, there will be no remembrance by those who will come later.”
I know not whether Baroness Margaret Thatcher ever read King Solomon’s philosophical musings in Ecclesiastes, but every person who longs to leave a legacy ought to spend time in its pages and ponder.
Lady Thatcher has died.
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For a week or two tributes will fill the airwaves and the internet. Her books and books about her will see a spike in sales. And Meryl Streep’s movie will experience a resurgence of rentals. Nevertheless, the day will soon come when our attentions will shift to the latest national crisis or fashion trend. We’re schizophrenic that way. To be sure, history books will be amended, marking Thatcher’s death: April 8, 2013.
And no doubt, other books will bear her name in their titles. Yet, even now, the memory of the Iron Lady is rusting. Show her picture to the average American or British student and ask them to identify her and describe what she stood for—you’re likely to get the look of profound dumbfoundedness. You might as well have shown them a picture of Benjamin Disraeli, William Pitt the Younger, or the Duke of Wellington. And if those same students were to recognize her, most would only possess a vague notion that she was someone important at some time in history.
What’s disconsolate about Lady Thatcher’s death, beside the continuing reminder that no one lasts forever, is the reminder that she was the last of the trinity of freedom.
For a decade and a half Ronald Reagan, Pope John Paul II, and Margaret Thatcher beat back tyranny by fighting for liberty. Millions gasped free air under the leadership and inspiration of these three—in Germany, in Poland, even in the former Soviet Union. But nothing lasts forever—not even freedom. In the intervening years since the trinity of freedom held power we’ve seen freedom’s retreat.
We’ve seen a surging Islamism exporting terror; a resurgent Iran on the verge of becoming nuclear; a Russian flirtation with Soviet-style policies; a North Korean nut threatening war, and perhaps nuclear war, with South Korea; and an American economy staggering under the weight of government overreach and overspending.
What was lost at the death of Lady Thatcher was not just the beloved of a family or the one time leader of a nation, but an icon—the last icon—of liberty in our time. And we’ve not see the likes of the Lady Thatcher on the national scene for some time, whether in America or Great Britain.
With the passage of time, the name of Margaret Thatcher will pass into faded memory. Her name, if remembered at all by future generations, will be another in a long list of names of once powerful people no longer distinguishable from other once powerful people. But we must never forget or lose the principle upon which the Iron Lady stood like a bulwark: liberty.
For another truth prevails: “Liberty once lost, is lost forever.”
If you enjoyed this article you can find more like it at derrickjeter.com, where you’ll also find information about my books: O America! A Manifesto on Liberty, A 911 for 9/11: Finding Answers to the Evil of September 11, 2001, and Our Day of Dependence: A History Lesson from Thanksgiving.