Every Fourth of July, I like to sit down and reflect a little on the meaning of the holiday. You can keep your Christmases, and Thanksgivings – in my opinion, Independence Day is the most important of the American holidays. It’s not just a time to get a day off of work, consume mass quantities of beer like a conehead, and blow stuff up (though I have nothing against those things). The Fourth of July is a celebration of a nation that stood up against tyranny. It is the celebration of (an albeit failed) Revolution, and we should acknowledge that while the holiday is still legally recognized in the U.S. Consider for a second the excitement on the street in those times. As Bob Dylan said, you don’t need a weatherman to know which way the wind blows. It was time for a new form of government and the citizens of budding nation not only recognized the fact, but took Action. What was the main purpose for a government at all, you ask. Well, they spelled it out quite clearly in the Declaration:
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.
“Self-evident”, “unalienable”, “just” – potent words – words that don’t readily spring to mind when contemplating the current State of the Nation – or just watching the evening news for that matter.
What exactly could provoke a nation into rising up and saying en masse “Enough!”? All Americans remember “Taxation without Representation”. It’s a mantra drilled into our heads since grade school and is said to be the cause of the, what would now be labeled “terrorist act”, Boston Tea Party. It was a little more involved than that, though. In fact, the framers of the Declaration listed 18 specific reasons. Eighteen unforgivable acts being perpetrated by the King.
- refused to assent to “wholesome” laws established by the colonies.
- forbid passing laws the colonies felt were pretty pressing.
- forbid laws allowing large districts of people “formidable to tyrants only.”
- called together the colonies legislators at bad times and places just to tire them out and make them vote his way. Sort of like keeping a suspect up for days until he confesses. Travel wasn’t as easy as hopping on a plane back then.
- repeatedly dissolved representative houses just for disagreeing with him.
- after doing the above, mucked things up so that new reps couldn’t be elected. All this at a time of big troubles in the colonies.
- tried to stop immigrants from entering the colonies to keep the population down. A smaller complacent population is much easier to keep from getting out of hand.
- refused to agree to let the colonies establish their own court systems.
- controlled the payment and living conditions of judges. See above. If you’re the one who decides where a judge is going to live and how much he gets paid, which way do you think he’ll rule?
- set up numerous police stations among the colonies and let the cops eat the colonies food. These were tough times, man.
- set up armies in the colonies during peace times.
- made the military independent and superior to civilian power.
- let other nations as well as England run wild in the colonies’ streets – housing military troops, murdering colonists, ravaging the countryside, prohibiting fair trials for the few who fought back, and what we all know and love, taxing without consent.
The last 5 were written just as the nation was entering into the Revolutionary war:
- gave up his right to rule by declaring war.
- plundered the seas, lands, and towns killing a few folks along the way.
- transported large numbers of mercenary armies for wholesale slaughter.
- captured folks on ships and forced them to execute their friends or kill themselves. Pretty harsh stuff.
- instigated the neighboring Indian tribes to attack the colonies.
The first thirteen don’t really seem that bad by comparison with what we endure these days. It makes me wonder what it would take to get people fired up to the point of saying “Enough!” now. The Declaration gives Americans the right to alter or abolish the government should it ever become destructive of its ends (securing our unalienable rights). Have Americans as a whole just decided to waive that right? Why wasn’t I asked?
But at least for now the holiday is still legal. And of course we’re still allowed to sit in front of the tv and watch sports (the opiate of the masses), drink beer, cook up some meat over an open fire and come out at night to set off some multi colored explosives. Sometimes those simple things are all you really need.
Have a happy and safe Fourth, all!
And for those feeling cheated out of any Flash Platform discussion – here are a few things I’ve been meaning to post: