Monday, July 4, 2016

American Pride

     It’s July 4, 2016, 240 years to the day since the Declaration of Independence was signed by the men who had resolved, unanimously, that their thirteen American colonies must break free of Great Britain. While the Declaration lists a considerable number of specific reasons for that decision, its principal author, Thomas Jefferson, considered the matter not to be about particular offenses but about a grand principle:

     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 People 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.

     That passage of barely two hundred words is the most consequential statement made by anyone, in any language, since Jesus of Nazareth walked the earth in human flesh. By its recognition of the inalienable rights of men, it reduces the State, once regarded as possessing an unbounded authority delegated to it by God Himself, to a servant with specific duties, inherently subordinate to its employers: the sovereign individual citizens.

     And we of the tenth generation since the Declaration have abandoned it completely.

     Grand statements of principle seldom attract many followers. In part, that’s because principles have implications that many persons prefer not to face, but in larger part it’s because most of us are simply disinclined to “get involved,” regardless of the matters at hand. At the time of the Declaration, the people of the colonies mostly wanted to be left alone. Perhaps 10% were enthusiasts for rebellion against the Crown of England. All the oratory, the broadsheets, and the pamphlets of the time could not rally the majority of the colonists out of their inclination to just sit back and let things happen.

     The federal Leviathan of today enjoys a similar degree of citizen disengagement. I’d wager that it could reinstitute Prohibition, the draft, and chattel slavery without provoking a 10% uprising against its abuses and usurpations. It’s already corrupted the electoral system beyond repair.

     This is no longer a free country de jure. The State, in its 88,000-plus American instantiations, has asserted absolute and unbounded power over all things, and it will not retreat from that stance. What remains to the individual is not political freedom but mere latitude: the entirely de facto ability to get away with rather a lot as long as he isn’t noticed, whether by artifice of clever concealment or the obscurity of large numbers. The subjects of the Soviet Union had that kind of “freedom,” too.

     How many of us would willingly accept the risk of death or imprisonment to rebel against our political status quo? I’ve heard the number 3% bruited about, though without any argument for its accuracy. That would yield a ten million person “rebellion.” Of those ten million, perhaps five million are of fighting age, somewhat fewer are of sufficiently sound condition, and still fewer know which end of a gun the bullet comes out of. What would their prospects be against the armed might of the federal government?

     No, I don’t think there’ll be a rebellion any time soon.

     When I wrote this fanciful piece, I had it in mind to express an idea that other writers have explored – indeed, that Robert A. Heinlein touched upon in his classic short story “Free Men.” A rebellion against an established State has a very poor chance of success unless it’s assisted from another State, for reasons of its own.

     Today, the two hundred-odd States that oppress Mankind are allied with one another against their subject populations. None of them would come to the aid of a second American Revolution.

     Yet there are little patches of kinda-sorta rebellion. Many individuals are using their personal latitude and means to prepare, not for an armed uprising against the political authorities, but for a collapse of the system as its internal contradictions become insupportably severe. How significant will they be in the long run? Well, the long run has a long way to run before we find out.

     It’s been said, disparagingly, of the French that “they think they built Paris, but they only inherited it.” A similar statement could be made of the people of the United States of America in the early Twenty-First Century.

     We’ll still have backyard barbecues on July 4. We’ll still fire off fireworks, at least where not prohibited by our local nannies. We’ll still put out flags and patriotic bunting, and thank any available veterans for their service. We’ll go on celebrating Independence Day even as what remains of the freedom the Founding Fathers bequeathed us is taken from us. For all anyone alive today might know, all that could someday become compulsory under threat of punishment.

     I know, I know: these are hardly cheery thoughts for a day that’s supposed to be a national celebration. I’d just like to know what we’re really celebrating. I remember being proud of my country. Today of all the days of the year, I find myself missing it badly...wishing it were still around.

     Have a nice day.

1 comment:

Ron Olson said...

In 1871 (I believe) the northern states held an illegal congress and created the UNITED STATES corporation which is run under maritime law. Our freedoms ended (dejure) that day. For a rebellion to occur it is necessary to know from what we are rebelling. I personally reject the evil one's corporate institutions. In fact America entered into sovereignty busting agreement in order to end the original hostilities. So the pride I used to feel about our country goes entirely now to the simple dirt people who believed the myth and the many who still do. I share a great sadness with you.