|A 21st Century Declaration of Independence|
By Troy Senik
Wednesday, July 04 2012
This year’s Fourth of July was a decidedly bittersweet affair. With the wound of last week’s Supreme Court ruling on ObamaCare still raw, it became more difficult to celebrate the idea of a nation founded on limited government without feeling like there was an excess of theater involved – like a family gathering where all of the guests are strenuously avoiding acknowledging that mom and dad aren’t talking to each other anymore.
True enough, no vagary of modern political life is sufficient to dilute the celebration of 236 years of independence for the greatest nation in world history. And no fleeting headlines can diminish the beauty of the Declaration of Independence, nor of the Constitution that followed in its wake. Yet there is a growing sense that the Fourth of July has come to be just another holiday in American life, with the sentiments animating it disappearing afterwards as quickly as a drying pine tree after Christmas.
In truth, we ought to think of the Fourth of July like Valentine’s Day. Love of the United States and everything it stands for – much like love for a spouse – cannot be sustained if only cabined to one day a year. In both cases, a special holiday to mark the depth of affection doesn’t obviate the need to live out that commitment for the rest of the year.
Thus, it’s incumbent on Americans to overcome the tendency to trot out the Founding Fathers once a year as sort of mid-summer Santas, quickly returning them to the cluttered attic of our consciousness thereafter. Indeed, the example of the Founders deserves our attention now more than ever. The challenge facing Americans is momentous.
The good news is that the brave men of Independence Hall did most of the heavy lifting for us. It was they who crafted the best instincts of the Scottish Enlightenment into an enunciation of first principles (the Declaration), gave those principles life through a constitution that leavened Locke with Montesquieu and then did the yeoman’s work of getting the nation up and running. Their task was to fashion a nation from little more than parchment, good intent and unrelenting industry. Ours is simply to preserve their work now that it’s increasingly imperiled by the slow drift of statism.
Doing so will require a declaration of independence not from a foreign crown but from the increasing acceptability of subservience. It will mean looking to achieve prosperity through ingenuity, inventiveness and elbow grease, not subsidies or regulations purchased at another taxpayer’s expense. It will mean keeping Washington at arm’s length while reasserting that states, localities, civic groups and individuals are better equipped and better informed when it comes to helping the downtrodden. And it will mean reasserting that there are broad swaths of American life where no one ought to intrude with the writ of the state – whether to dictate the terms on which health care is received, textbooks are constructed or religious observance is carried out.
It will require, more than anything, reasserting the manly fortitude of the Founders, who believed that it fell to free-born citizens to place a saddle on the state and not the other way around. If Americans have it within themselves to fulfill this mandate – and the rise of groups like the Tea Party suggest that they do – future Fourth of Julys will not have to see the sweet tempered by the bitter.
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