I should have known better. In a momentary lapse of judgment during which I allowed myself to become sentimental regarding this Independence Day, I searched out a dramatic reading of the Declaration of Independence and came across the above video featuring several celebrity performers, many of whom may be recognized for their rabid attacks on the principles enshrined within that document. The irony of listening to Whoopi Goldberg recite the long list of usurpations committed by King George, in light of her sycophantic support of a sitting president who stands guilty of many of the same offenses, proves too much to bear.
It got me thinking. On the Fourth of July, what are we even celebrating anymore? I quickly recalled that this cycle of thought has in recent years become a sad new tradition. Rather than a cause for reflection and celebration, the occasion formerly known as Independence Day now takes on a grief similar to that surrounding the anniversary of a death in the family.
In sharing my despair, I risk raining on the holiday parade. But I have to believe I’m not the only one who feels this way. Sure, we’ll go on with our barbeques and fireworks and time away from work spent among family and friends. Yet all the while, in the back of our minds, how can we dismiss the sense of loss when we consider independence as a value?
After all, if barbeques and fireworks were the point of it all, we could conjure up any arbitrary reason for a day off. Instead of the Fourth of July, why not the Twenty-First of March. That was the day in 2010 when the 111th Congress of the United States defied both the expressed will of the people and every sentiment expressed in the Declaration of Independence by passing the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, better known as Obamacare, a law so damaging to the American pursuit of happiness that its implementation was postponed past the point when President Obama would stand for re-election and has recently been postponed past the point when Congress will face the people in 2014.
While at it, we can also sanctify the Twenty-Eighth of June. That was the day last year when Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts creatively rewrote the law through judicial fiat, turning the individual mandate from a penalty into a tax. He and the majority thus established a precedent whereby the federal government may punish both behavior and lack of behavior at a whim. The Bill of Rights be damned.
Those are only two of the most prominent occasions which we could dub Dependence Day. We could then celebrate with honesty our new “progressive” culture, a culture which the founders would not recognize as a descendant of their own, a culture which would welcome British occupation if it came with a guarantee of healthcare, housing, tuition, and retirement.
Listening to leftist celebrities recite the Declaration of Independence, you have to wonder whether they or many of our fellow Americans retain any sense of what those words actually mean.
We hold these truths to be self-evident,
… unquestionable matters of fact ascertained through rational consideration of reality.
…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.
… the success of which cannot be guaranteed in any event, and which any attempt to guarantee would necessarily violate the former.
–That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed,
… which necessarily limits its power to that which the governed bequeath. Such government may never justly do what an individual could not.
–That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it… 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.
Consider just a few examples of the abuses and usurpations cited in the Declaration:
He has forbidden his Governors to pass Laws of immediate and pressing importance, unless suspended in their operation till his Assent should be obtained; and when so suspended, he has utterly neglected to attend to them.
SB 1070. Proposition 8. The list of statutes or state constitutional amendments which the federal government has “forbidden” grows every year.
He has refused to pass other Laws for the accommodation of large districts of people, unless those people would relinquish the right of Representation in the Legislature, a right inestimable to them and formidable to tyrants only.
Consider the numerous ways in which our tax dollars are offered back to us under the condition that our states comply with ever more onerous federal mandates, effectively negating our efforts to govern our own affairs locally. Sure, we could turn down the money. But for what constitutional purpose was it appropriated in the first place? If the money is to be spent in the states, why not leave it there and let state residents control how and to what purpose?
He has called together legislative bodies at places unusual, uncomfortable, and distant from the depository of their public Records, for the sole purpose of fatiguing them into compliance with his measures.
Enjoying the most transparent administration in history? Glad bills get passed so you can know what is in them? Appreciate recess appointments made while Congress stands in session?
We could go right down the list. I’l end with my personal favorite:
He has erected a multitude of New Offices, and sent hither swarms of Officers to harrass our people, and eat out their substance.
Czars anyone? The secretary shall? Forget elections, the horrors of mammoth government cannot be truly addressed until the bureaucracy has been overthrown. Unelected administrators resist reform and evade scrutiny by outlasting any term of office.
Does any of this ring true in the hearts and minds of Edward Norton or Renee Zellweger as they recite the Declaration? More importantly, does it connect with our broader culture?
Each passing year in recent times, the argument that America remains a center-right nation of independent patriots has become harder to make. Those of our forebears who heard the Declaration read aloud and were moved to lay down their plows and take up muskets clearly agreed that these truths prove self-evident. Do we? Do enough of us? Will the Fourth of July ever again be truthfully celebrated as Independence Day? I’ll consider as I watch fireworks launched in a state where I may not legally buy them.