How Much Longer Independence?
As we celebrate 222 years of our nation's independence, we would do well to contemplate why it has endured so long.
The independence declared by thirteen colonies along the Eastern seaboard of this land mass gave birth not only to a new nation, but to a new kind of human being known simply as "American."
From the independence of the new nation, for which its founders relied on the Protection of Divine Providence, and to which they pledged their Lives, their Fortunes, and their sacred Honor, grew men and women who were independent as none before them.
Countless generations have been taught-as much over here as in Europe-to think of July 14, 1789, the day Parisians stormed the Bastille and set in motion the great French Revolution, as the epicenter of the earthquake that would break the chains of tyranny everywhere. But in reality, it was that day thirteen years earlier-July 4, 1776-which was destined to become the source of hope on Earth.
The symbolism of the two events is instructive. In Paris, the crowds merely destroyed an old edifice, followed by years of utter chaos. By contrast, Philadelphia witnessed the most thoughtfully considered creation of something new. And it was followed by extensive and public contemplation of the human condition as far as the eye could see, producing in the twelfth year of America's independence a Constitution, to this day unparalleled in its simplicity and nobility.
The Founders provided a framework based on the rule of law, individual rights, the guarantee of property, and a common American identity. It would then be up to successive generations to implement these principles, to demonstrate that Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness indeed have been secured by that remarkable reaffirmation of their status as unalienable Rights on July 4, 1776.
And so, for two hundred years, it was the Fourth of July every day as men and women from every corner of the globe converged upon this blessed place and declared their independence. They realized that independence was a way of life that would preserve their liberty, and keep unobstructed the path along which they could pursue happiness. As the Founders before them, they understood the price of independence, and they were willing to pay it every day, for it is a price that must be paid every day.
The price is acceptance of responsibility for one's actions and for one's fortunes. The price is self-sufficiency, and dependence solely on the benevolence of the Creator, never seeking benevolence from earthly powers. The price is making the best of opportunity, but never expecting anything more than opportunity. The appellation "American" became synonymous with the word "independent." There were times when distinguished scholars came and made do washing dishes, and princes made do driving taxicabs to earn the opportunity of becoming American. Children of the wealthy delivered newspapers and mowed the lawn to earn anew the honor of being called American.
The young nation became the symbol of man's best qualities for all the world. And, in its second century, the young nation sent the best of its young to save the world time and time again. Wherever in the world people or peoples lost their freedom, they could always look to America, because America was free and independent. And as long as every American retained the spirit of independence, America would remain independent.
But ominous changes began some thirty years ago. During the 1960s, a generation was persuaded to set about destroying the old and, like those storming the Bastille in 1789, to leave nothing but a void in its place. As inducement, they were promised a growing basket of goods and services. Instead of acting as the guardian of opportunity, government would henceforth dispense opportunity (read: privilege) in a "fair and just" manner. By providing an ever-growing array of "entitlements," government would in fact foot the bill for individual failure. Adults would be held harmless from the consequences of sexual promiscuity and addiction to narcotics. Children in schools would be denied knowledge-a primary tool of independence-and subjected to political agitation instead. In time, much of education, journalism, philanthropy, and entertainment became mere theaters for political agitation. Americans, by the millions, drank from its poisoned fountain and lost their independence.
How much longer can a nation of increasingly dependent citizens retain its independence in the world? On this Fourth of July, America is governed by too many elected officials who have never tasted the effervescent surge of independence, having derived their support from the public purse all their lives. They are surrounded by appointed ones who share their passion for the globalization of America. Their actions-be it delegating sovereignty to the United Nations, concluding environmental treaties, or gutting our defense establishment-reveal how unaware they are of the value and nature of independence. Their dealings abroad are complemented at home by replacing the appellation "American," spelled out in all capital letters by George Washington in his Farewell Address, with "pride in our diversity."
Few if any individuals, few if any countries regard America with dispassionate neutrality. America elicits affection, admiration, envy, and hostility-never indifference. America must respond to affection, remain worthy of admiration, teach self-sufficiency to the envious, and maintain a healthy fear in the hostile. Above all, America must remain the success story in a global sea of failure. For that, America must remain independent.
But, unless Americans restore their independence as individuals, America shall not retain its independence as a nation.