This article originally appeared The Orange County Register on July 4, 2020 under the title Liberty, under siege, must be cherished and defended
The Fourth of July is a day on which most Americans enjoy a holiday celebration with their family and friends. In normal years we all enjoy a day at the beach, a barbecue and parades. Flags are waved throughout our communities. Typically, at this time of the year, Californians are making plans to visit one of the dozens of fireworks shows put on throughout the state.
This year, however, has hardly been typical, and most of the normal activities that would have otherwise occurred this weekend been quietly canceled due to the ongoing pandemic.
John Adams wrote that Independence Day “ought to be solemnized with pomp and parade with shews, games, sports, guns, bells, bonfires and illuminations from one End of this continent to the other.” He didn’t anticipate that some of the festivities he recommended would later become illegal.
Although holiday celebrations with family and friends are certainly valuable in and of themselves, it appears that tragically fewer and fewer Americans understand the historical significance of the day and the ideas it represents. Maybe this year, with the physical distancing requirements, rather than watch the virtual fireworks, we can instead look at the truth of what this day actually represents.
On July 2, 1776, the Continental Congress declared its independence from Great Britain and on July 4th its members adopted a formal resolution, written by Thomas Jefferson, and signed by representatives of all 13 colonies to do just that. On that day the Declaration of Independence was born.
Most libertarians have a special place in their heart for the Declaration of Independence. With its ringing endorsement of “unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness;” its insistence of the right of the people to “alter or abolish” those governments that trample upon their rights; and the stirring commitment of its signers to pledge their “lives, fortune, and sacred honor” to defending those rights, the Declaration still stands as an inspirational document to lovers of liberty.
And yet, it’s because libertarians have a special appreciation for the ideals on which our country was founded that we feel a certain amount of frustration on the Fourth of July. The Declaration of Independence represents a statement of hope and promise for something better, but it is a promise that has gone unfulfilled.
Our rights to “Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness” have not been secured by the institutions our founders created. And we, like they, have suffered “a long train of abuses and usurpations” against our liberty. For example, a destructive and ineffective war on drugs; a surveillance state that operates without any respect for privacy, due process or the rule of law; a government that privileges the interests of large corporations over the rights of ordinary citizens; and most recently, a government that locks us in our homes and closes our businesses to create a false sense of safety.
It is sad but undeniable that most Americans no longer share the libertarian perspective of America’s founders. Most Americans wouldn’t care if our government did the things that Britain did; acts that caused the Founders to risk their lives to fight for liberty and fight against offenses that are the very definition of a “tyranny.” Americans wouldn’t care because they already tolerate a government that is much worse than the one denounced in the Declaration of Independence.
Because the education of our children was turned over to government, generations of Americans have been taught that freedom means taxes, regulations and government responsibility to take care of us. Most have no idea of the better life that could exist in a society where government doesn’t manage health care, education, welfare and business, and in which individuals are free to determine their own destinies.
Fortunately, the Libertarian Party has kept alive the ideas of liberty, peace and self-reliance. As we grow throughout California and across the nation, it’s just a matter of time when the urge to live life free will be the new normal.
And then the Fourth of July will truly be worth celebrating!