A Revolutionary Thought
Happy Independence Day! Some people like to just think of it as "Happy 4th of July", and to them it is just a other long weekend, with fireworks and picnics, and maybe some beer. For them, it is just another party — but they forget the reason for the party, the celebration of the birth of our nation.
On July 4, 1776, 56 men affixed their signatures to a document written by Thomas Jefferson. Legend has it that these signatories suffered terribly at the hands of a vengeful British Empire, but the truth is that most of them suffered no more and less than the rest of the American people. Those who lost property, sons, their own lives, or their wives, did so simply because they were in the path of a war that was rolling through. Indeed, only one of the signers — Richard Stockton of New Jersey — was taken prisoner specifically because he had signed the Declaration of Independence.
Nevertheless, they did suffer, and The People suffered along with them, because they had set in motion what was to become the single greatest nation among nations in the history of mankind up to the present day. Whether or not the signers suffered for specifically having signed the document, or whether they suffered in the natural course of war, or even if they suffered and lost nothing, we still own them our debt of gratitude. Every nation which was liberated from the boot-heel of nazi oppression or Japanese expansionism, or Soviet domination, owes those men a debt of gratitude.. Without them, the Iron Curtain still stands, severing Europe in two; without them, D-Day at Normandy and the liberation of Fortress Europe never happens. Without them, the nations of the Pacific remain in Japanese hands. Without them, the birthplace of so much innovation and wealth, used in turn to benefit mankind so many times and in so many ways, never happens.
But even more importantly, without this document signed by these men, the single greatest political idea in human history is never born. What is that idea? It is the idea that the highest political value is the individual liberty of the citizen. Here is what the second paragraph says:
We hold these truths to be self evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. — That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed. — That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the Peole to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness. Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shewn, that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security.--Such has been the patient sufferance of these Colonies; and such is now the necessity which constrains them to alter their former Systems of Government. The history of the present King of Great Britain is a history of repeated injuries and usurpations, all having in direct object the establishment of an absolute Tyranny over these States. To prove this, let Facts be submitted to a candid world.
It is a revolutionary document — literally — and as we find ourselves in an increasingly statist state, with an increasingly burdensome government which tramples the Constitution with its invasive spying on its own citizens, and its progressive (literally) attempts to subvert our liberties and disarm us — it is a document we should be re-examining. If things get too bad, it shows us the way forward.
So let us hold our government accountable to the promotion and preservation of that highest of all political values — the individual liberty of the citizen. And when government fails in that regard, threaten it first with civil disobedience, and if necessary, revolution. It is the natural condition of government to seek expansion of its powers, and it is the natural condition of individual liberty to limit government's ability to do so. But the ultimate arbiter of our success, in an environment when government no longer promotes and preserves individual liberty, is the willingness of the individual citizen to take matters into his or her own hands, and then to act collectively with other like-minded individuals to either force government accountability, or to abolish that government and replace it with one that lays "its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness".
There is no time like Independence Day to remember these things, and to recommit ourselves, both as individuals, and as a people, to that end.
Happy Independence Day to all of you. May it be happy, but may it also be filled with sober reflection on the incredible gift our nation's founders gave us, and with renewed commitment to the same.
May God's blessings be upon all of you.