The Course of Human Events
America was an experiment. In an age when nations were ruled by hereditary monarchs, we established a republic (if we could keep it), based on the notion that government’s legitimacy was entirely dependent upon the consent of the governed. In America, government’s authority would flow from the citizenry; we, the people, did not merely exist to support the State.
It’s beginning to seem that the experiment has failed and, as our Independence Day draws closer, I grow more depressed. Independence seems to be fading from our collective memory and national mores.
Now, we are focused more on having an all-powerful government “making things fair” rather than on individuals rising or falling on their own merit. We sanction theft (though usually from others) to “help the needy” rather than taking action ourselves to help someone we perceive to be in dire straits. We willingly throw enumerated Constitutional rights (again, usually those valued more by others than ourselves) on the twin bonfires of “national security” and “social justice,” without pausing to understand those rights or demanding an explicit accounting of what will supposedly be gained by the sacrifice. We debate with greater outrage over where citizens may urinate than whether the Fourth Amendment really means the government cannot intercept our communications and search our documents without a warrant. There are now more armed federal agents than there are armed United States Marines.
Our response to the September 11th, 2001 attack on our soil by jihadi terrorists was to grow the federal government, establishing the Department of Homeland Security to coordinate data and communications between other law enforcement agencies, and the Transportation Security Administration to screen travelers for terrorist activity. The former has ballooned to the third-largest cabinet position, coordinating precious little while managing to leave our southern border wide open; the latter makes regular headlines for everything from groping children to assault of disabled passengers to stealing from inspected baggage, all while managing to fail almost 95% of tests that, if real, would have resulted in smuggling explosives and weapons onto commercial flights.
Our response to the June 12th, 2016 terrorist attack in Orlando was even more absurd and abysmal. When the Islamic terrorist involved pledged his loyalty to Daesh/ISIS, shouted “Allahu Akbar” during his murderous spree, and then proceeded to kill over fifty people, Attorney General Loretta Lynch declared that “we may never know what his motivation was.” When it was determined that the killer was a registered Democrat who passed multiple background checks to acquire his weapons, media and politicians immediately blamed the National Rifle Association’s opposition to mandatory background checks, and the New York City’s gay pride parade included a banner blaming “Republican hate” for the attack. Now, both Democrats and Republicans are debating how - not whether - to restrict the Second Amendment based on secret lists developed by persons unknown, based on evidence unshared.
In case you need a refresher, the Sixth Amendment states, in part, that Americans accused of a crime have the right “to be informed of the nature and cause of the accusation; to be confronted with the witnesses against him; to have compulsory process for obtaining witnesses in his favor, and to have the Assistance of Counsel for his defence.” This doesn’t apply because these aren’t criminal cases, you say? Well… then why are we infringing upon an individual right if no crime has been committed?
Our current President, elected on the primary qualification of his pigmentation, will be replaced by either a candidate whose primary qualification is her genitalia or one whose primary qualification is his angry ramblings. No matter that they are both degenerate liars, narcissists, and authoritarians, since the current occupant of the position has established those qualities as job requirements.
Our Legislature has the lowest approval rating in history, yet they still hold their seats. They still merit applause for absurd political theater, despite the fact that they accomplish little, and, when they accomplish anything, it is usually to the gross detriment of individual freedom and national finances.
Our Judiciary is schizophrenic at best and negligent at worst. They who are supposed to be our final line of defense against Constitutional infringement now “discover” rights never mentioned in that document, while ignoring cases that explicitly go to its heart. One federal judge has recently gone so far as to publish a piece supporting the notion that studying the Constitution is a waste of time.
These are the people, collectively representing all branches of our government, who define the limits of our legal rights. This does not bode well.
As you celebrate this Independence Day, take some time to ponder what “independence” really means to you. What it means to be free; what it means to “have rights.” Are your rights and liberties government-issued, and dependent upon the blessing of our courts? Or are they innate – your birthright to speak your mind; to defend yourself; to demand answers and compensation from your government; to maintain your privacy; to be tried by your peers, and to be able to defend yourself before them by facing your accusers?
If, like us, you espouse the latter view, spend a little more time considering what that means for your future. What if you are given, in Frédéric Bastiat’s words, “the cruel alternative” of being law-abiding or being free? What would you stand to lose or to gain? How far would you go? Would you fight? Would you hide? Would you surrender your integrity? Would you turn in your neighbors? Would you harbor traitors (or, in modern parlance, "domestic terrorists")?
These were the very thoughts and dilemmas faced by the men who gave us this foundering experiment, and struggling with them ourselves is perhaps a better way to honor our nation’s birth then watching a fireworks display. If it helps, let us end with another quote, from another British citizen: