What do history's most notorious despots have in common with many of the flag-waving, patriotic politicians of our day? Both groups rise to power through the exploitation of fear, which has become a societal plague. There have been widespread casualties. We need an antidote. Feardom offers its readers a much-needed immunization.
photo credit: Mrs. Maze
It has become common in our country to wish others a “Happy fourth of July” on and around this historic day. This salutation obfuscates the importance of the day, thus equating it with any random “Happy seventeenth of February” or something similar. No longer do the majority of people say “Happy Independence Day”. Imagine wishing others a merry Christmas by instead shouting “Happy twenty-fifth of December!” Yeah, didn’t think so.
We as a people have become part of what Gore Vidal once called the “United States of Amnesia”. This is perhaps best seen on Jay Leno’s “Jaywalking” segment, where he stops random people on the street to ask them simple questions. Viewers are flabbergasted to see so many people not know who the Vice President is, what the nation’s capital is, or what the entire pledge of allegiance says. Similarly, I would predict that the majority of Americans do not understand the historical importance of the day we today celebrate, nor the major events which took place on and around the day 232 years ago.
Yes, we declared independence from King George’s England. But why? The shackles of oppressive government were overthrown for events, taxes, and policies that in many cases were far less burdensome than ones we have today.
And who declared independence? Not a centralized national government, but a federation of independent, sovereign states. Thus we see in our founding documents the united (lowercase) States being referred to plurally, thus recognizing the self-governance of several united bodies of government.
The bold and heroic action by the signers of this declaration—a peaceful protest of government—led to the defensive Revolutionary War, culminating in the birth of our country, founded upon a written, inspired, and priceless Constitution. But on this day we don’t celebrate the war, our victory, the Constitution, or any other subsequent event in American history—we celebrate the courageous proclamation of liberty manifested in the words of the Declaration of Independence.
Such celebrations ideally serve to help us remember important events and people. But in a day of fireworks, flag waving, parades and barbecues, I fear that few Americans take the time to read, understand, or ponder the importance of the Declaration. This amazing document speaks volumes regarding the principle of individual liberty, and its continual application in our current affairs will collectively guide us in the right direction. Failing to so apply it will lead to widespread ignorance and abandonment of the principles that once made our nation great.
If Jay Leno stopped you on the street and asked you how many people signed the Declaration, would you know? If asked to repeat a line or two, could you? Or if you were asked how this document is relevant to our day, what would you say?
Our survival and prosperity as individuals and as a nation depends in large measure upon how faithful we are to the principles proclaimed in the Declaration and secured by the Constitution. Understanding what policies and practices the founders declared independence from is crucial to knowing how we are to become and remain independent in our own day.