Putting Independence Back in Independence Day

June 30, 2001
Posted at Missouri League, Free Republic, and Opinionet.

Twin Lakes, Colorado, is situated 130 miles southwest of Denver and two miles above sea level. This year, for the third year in a row, I will celebrate the Fourth of July by joining a few dozen friends at Twin Lakes for a weekend of camping, hiking, fishing, cycling, and otherwise enjoying the great outdoors.

Although, as I write this, I am counting the hours until I leave, I am saddened that July 4th has lost so much of its meaning. Just as Christmas has degenerated into a pagan ritual that is all Santa and no Jesus, our July 4 festivities overlook what happened on that date 225 years ago. We go on our camping trips, to the beach, and to our ball games (often at tax-subsidized stadiums), with little if any regard for what makes the events of July 4, 1776 so unique.

There is a great line in Mel Gibson's movie "The Patriot" about there being no difference between one tyrant 3000 miles away and 3000 tyrants one mile away. In 1776, we declared independence from an overbearing king. In 1789, we codified the principals espoused in the Declaration of Independence into the Constitution, which strictly limits the size and scope of the federal government. Governments exist to protect our rights, not to bring about a perfect society.

The philosophies of the Founders differed radically from our current philosophy of government, which may be summarized in six words: if it sounds good do it. Almost all our current political discussion consists of whining about how the government has not done enough in a certain area, or how the government has not solved a certain problem.

We are all too ready to give up a few rights, pay a few more taxes, and encumber ourselves with a few more laws in order to have what we believe will be a better America. The conclusion of this line of reasoning is that, if we give up all our freedoms we will have a perfect society. Do you want to live in a society based on this premise? Then go to Key West, Florida, build a raft, and sail 90 miles south. I guarantee that yours will be the only raft sailing in that direction. Utopia is just no fun.

(Evidence of the failure of big government may be seen in the failure of our trade embargo on Cuba to bring Papa Fidel to his knees after 40 years. Evidence of our unending faith in big government may be seen in the insistence of many Americans that continuing this embargo will actually bring Papa Fidel to his knees.)

Far too many mainstream conservatives could care less anymore about our heritage of freedom. They are content merely to fiddle with the periphery of the leviathan state, and to grow it only slightly slower than liberals would like. They act as if there were something sacred about our current form of government. They are oblivious to the fact that such things as state education, progressive income taxes, and central banking have their roots not in the Bible or the Constitution, but in the Communist Manifesto.

Indeed, they tell us that economics do not really matter and that we should focus on moral issues. Admittedly, this new guy in the White House is not as bad as the last guy. It is to his credit that he conquered his dependency on Olde Demon Rum, and has been dry for 15 years. However, his own daughters cannot even comply with laws forbidding underage drinking. If such laws cannot instill virtue in the First Family, how can Uncle Sam be relied upon to instill virtue in tens of millions of families from Maine to Hawaii?

On his best day, this George will tyrannize us far more King George III did on his worst day. King George III was a lot of bad things. However, he only taxed us at about three percent of our incomes, he did not jail us for taking medications not first approved by his regulatory flunkies, and he did not force us to send our children to schools which have graduated God knows how many millions of morally bankrupt and functionally illiterate people.

In 1775, when the Brits came to confiscate the arms held by the colonists at Lexington, they met with furious resistance. Would we stand behind such resisters today, or would we write them off as a bunch of white, male, homophobic, religious fanatics? One of the quickest ways to be marginalized by mainstream conservatives is to insist that the Constitution be followed as written, not as "interpreted."

Churchill once remarked that the side that wins the war gets to write the history books. The North won the War Between the States, and hence several generations have been brainwashed that this war was necessary to eradicate the greatest shame in our history, that of slavery. The truth is that the southern states seceded over tariffs imposed by Washington that favored the North, and that slavery would have gone away without a war. (Britain ended slavery without a war.) Slavery was becoming economically outmoded and was met with increasingly strong social disapproval. If Uncle Sam could eradicate this evil, the reasoning goes, he can certainly exorcise all lesser evils. As we have already seen, a government that desires to eradicate all evils will, in time, turn us all into slaves.

And so it was, with the War Between the States and Reconstruction, that tyranny took root in America. I have no clue what the people next door may think about politics. They would certainly never think of putting an Uzi to my head and demanding that I turn over half of my money. However, to the degree that they are morally indifferent about a government that tyrannizes us as much as it does, they are aiding and abetting this tyranny. Just because the government does something does not make it moral.

And to the degree that we freedom fighters fail to educate those around us about our heritage of freedom, we are also aiding and abetting this tyranny. I have been involved in the freedom movement for nine years, and am constantly amazed by the people who are enthusiastic about our message. So, this Independence week (as July 4th falls on a Wednesday this year, a lot of the celebrating will be spread over about eight days), it is the duty of freedom fighters everywhere to educate those around us about the need to return to our Founding principles, thus putting the "independence" back in Independence Day. It is our duty to do so at the beach, at the cookout, at the ballpark, or at the fireworks.

It is my duty do likewise as I hike to the summit of Mt. Elbert, 14,433 feet above sea level and the highest point in Colorado.

Freely Speaking: Speeches and Essays by Doug Newman

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