Thursday, July 4, 2013

Free and Independent

Happy Independence Day!

For those who believe today is about fireworks, grilling meat, drinking beer (or lemonade or sweet tea), swimming, and singing patriotic songs, I have recorded a little reminder of what this day really celebrates. Mind you, the above examples are how we celebrate, not what. They are fine ways to have fun rejoicing in the freedom that was bought (and renewed) at so high a cost.

[Just a quick note on the fireworks and "bombs bursting in air". "The Star Spangled Banner" was written during the War of 1812, not the War for Independence. The fireworks that represent what Francis Scott Key wrote about witnessing were from one of those fights to renew our liberty.]

237 years ago a group of men from the 13 United American Colonies gathered in a small room. Over the course of weeks they argued and debated over severing ties with their parent country. Meanwhile, leading the Colonial Army in defending the colonies from invasion, General George Washington sought some means to re-invigorate the Soldiers. At that time, they were technically fighting against their own country.

Having gone through several drafts, Thomas Jefferson proposed a declaration. The delegates, in congress, edited the document carefully. James Madison urged slight changes and additions to the preamble. Then a vote was taken. 12 men voted in favor of the document. The delegate from New York voted "present". There was no opposing vote.

The Declaration is a beautifully written document. In its first two paragraphs, it summarizes deist theology and the political philosophies our country holds dear. Those philosophies are found in the writings of John Locke, Montesquieu, and Aristotle (who greatly rebuked Plato's Republic as a formula for despotism). Most prominent are Locke and Montesquieu's essays on "natural rights", those rights endowed by the Creator [insert name from whatever religion you choose] that no man has the infringe upon another.

"We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal... endowed by the creator with certain inalienable rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness [Locke and Montesquieu used the term "Property"]"

Next, 56 men signed the document. In doing so, they pledged, as the Declaration of Independence states, their lives, their fortunes, and their sacred honor to the new country to whom the Declaration gave birth.

After a hard-fought and bloody war to expel the British shackles, the new nation struggled. Under the Articles of Confederation, you had states declaring war on each other over taxes, tariffs, and trade. There was a shadow of a standing army, but no means to feed or equip them. Rebellions such as Shay's Rebellion inflamed. There were still British soldiers quartered on US Soil, without US permission. Thomas Jefferson quipped that "a little dissent is necessary" to keep the government honest and to identify when there are issues that need to be addressed. That led to the US Constitution.

Since, our country has faced adversity. We have faced internal dissent and external threats. Still we are here, United We Stand, E Pluribus Unum.

To protect out people from the very tyranny we fought so hard to be free, the federal government was limited in its authority and responsibility. Those authorities were limited to only those things deemed necessary and proper for a national governing body to conduct in order to maintain the prosperity and security ("Secure the blessings of liberty") of the nation. Our founders and the framers of the Constitution were on careful guard to insure the federal government of the republic didn't fall into corruption and tyranny.

It is the job of each and every individual free citizen to be a watchdog over the state and federal governments. Such is necessary to ensure the blessings of liberty and to maintain "the political bands which have connected them". Though we entrust those we elect to federal office with the authority to perform their enumerated duties, we must never trust any while they are in that federal office. The Bill of Rights, the first ten amendments to the US Constitution, are each protections from tyranny to allow free citizens to accomplish those responsibilities. They were also enumerated as a partial list of those "natural rights" the founders held so dear that they were willing to risk their lives, fortunes, and sacred honors in securing.

Some examples:

  • Freedom to believe. Freedom to speak out against injustice. Freedom to criticize the government. Freedom to inform other people of the facts. Freedom to voice opinion based upon those facts. Freedom to gather, debate, peacefully protest. Freedom to petition the government.
  • The right to self-protection and defense against potential tyranny.
  • The right to privacy and property without search and seizure due to political or tyrannical whims.
  • The right to a fair trial with adequate legal representation, with protective rights for the accused in order to ensure a fair trial.
  • The right to an elected state government that is free and independent of the federal government. The federal government is not allowed to overthrow or dismiss those of the states.
  • The rights and freedoms from government expanding its powers and authorities beyond the limits set forth by the US Constitution.
Last year, as I was preparing to move to Texas, I found time to record this little rant entitled "This I'll Defend". The name comes from the US Army Motto and my lifelong oath to support and defend the US Constitution. Please take a few minutes to watch that video and read the associated blog. It may be worth it for comedic reasons alone.

They are also established to keep our own government from doing to us what King George did to the colonials starting in 1773. The Crown increased import and export tariffs on the colonies, to include locally produced teas, tobacco, and cotton. However, it gave tax breaks to one trading company that was based in the British Isles. The colonists still had to pay taxes on their end of the transaction, though. Also, the company sold the tea at prices equal to those with the tariffs in place. In several ports, most famously Boston Harbor, some colonists rebelled against these unfair tax practices. They tossed the tea into the ocean. So, the Crown kicked the elected local governments out, and appointed his own people. He closed the harbors and cut off the colonies rights to fair trade. He sent over soldiers and told colonists that they had to provide them free room an board on their property or face charges of treason. The Crown broke the laws of Magna Carta and Parliament in the process, claiming that such were invalid when dealing with the colonies. That is but a partial list.

Explore the indictment of King George as embedded within the Declaration of Independence. While doing so, look for hints of similar acts of tyranny from our current government. Many have already drawn some possible parallels. However, an educated and free mind should explore the history, collect the facts, and come to its own conclusions.