Monday, July 07, 2008
Posted by Daniel Greenfield 5 Comments
The shells shoot up. The sky fills with color. Color so vivid and bright that for a moment it blots everything out. Green. Red. Blue. Gold.
Then it fades and closer by smaller fireworks are shot up with a whoosh and a bang followed by cheering. Small fireworks fired in backyards and rooftops. Illegal now in New York.
"That's terrible," come the mutters. "That's not allowed." "Good, people could blow their hands off." "It's too dangerous."
And that was Independence Day. Beneath the spectacle and the dazzle, independence had become detached from freedom and the celebration of the 4th of July was something best left to trained professionals and corporate sponsorship, not to individual Americans. Yet somewhere in the distance rebels were firing off their individual fireworks, illegal, hunted by the police, but still celebrating the truth of the 4th of July, Independence Day.
July 4th itself was controversial and the subject of an ideological battle between John Adams and Thomas Jefferson. Adams favored the 2nd, which was the anniversary of the resolution of national independence. Jefferson favored the 4th which was the anniversary of the Declaration of Independence. The battle had an obvious egotistical element with each men putting forth his chief accomplishment, but it also had an ideological one, for the Declaration spelled out not just national independence, but that it was premised on the rights of the individual.
Unlike the independence movements of many other nations, American independence had always been premised on the rights of the individual. It was because of the unaddressed violations of the rights of British citizens in America, that the growing resistance, revolution and eventual self-rule took place. The fundamental reason for the existence of the United States of America was that colonial rule had violated the contract between citizen and state, therefore requiring a new form of local independent government to take its place.
American independence has therefore always been premised on the individual freedoms of its citizens. It is unsurprising therefore that as America loses its independence in an entangled maze of foreign treaties and UN agreements, Americans lose their freedom. And vice versa. American independence and the rights of Americans are bound together. When one goes, so does the other.
A governing body that bans fireworks, as is the case in a growing number of states and cities, is one that has already banned firearms on the understanding that dangerous things should not be in the hands of individuals. Britain, the mother country long parted, is still pursuing that approach to the bitter end as it conducts a campaign for "Knife Control" against a rash of stabbings, turning satire into reality. Because of course you cannot take dangerous things out of the hands of people. You can only take them out of the hands of law abiding people.
The wide range of Chinese and Japanese martial arts weapons that Western teenagers know and admire from countless martial arts epics, such as the Nunchaku, were created by people who had been barred from owning swords by authorities that practiced their own form of "Knife Control". In turn the populace and monks created lethal weapons made from sticks of wood and built entire martial arts around them. The lesson of course is that it is not weapons that are dangerous, but people who are dangerous. And people are very dangerous indeed.
The government of adults is a social contract between adults, dangerous men and women who choose to live by certain rules with one another. The government of children is a nanny state that panders to them and takes away their dangerous toys while preaching to them endlessly how to live their lives. Put on more warning labels, exercise more, eat less, don't play with guns or fireworks or lawn darts. You'll put your eye out.
We live today under a children's government. A government to whom Freedom is a word and Independence is something to be given up to an even larger global government. A government that treats its citizens as children to be talked down to when their cooperation is needed, but not partners in what needs to be done.
There are a packed mass of civil rights organizations opening up shop on every corner, but those organizations have nothing to do with individual rights which underlie the state of freedom. They represent group rights, with the mission of ironing out the inequities in the current system with special benefits and even more government oversight. If the government is the nanny state, the civil rights organizations are the toddlers demanding more cookies than the other boys and girls because the nanny likes them less.
The fireworks that shoot up over the river are a gorgeous and dazzling sight. They represent the greatness we can achieve when we work together. But the small fireworks represent the energy and force of individual initiative. Both are needed and both are vital to the health of a working democracy. Within the great blaze in the sky reminding us that we all stand beneath one greater light, there is nothing more than anarchy. But without the smaller fireworks displays, the individual is robbed of individual initiative and joy.
An independence day that forbids the independent spirit of Americans is not fundamentally different than the fireworks displays of any other nation, free or not. The joining together of a people means nothing if they are treated as nothing more than cogs in a great machine without free will. Such a system crushes the initiative of the individual for a collective good that is defined as his own good by the forces of authority. Such a system cannot long remain free, for freedom derives from the individual. As individuals in a government of adults we choose within a social contract to restrain ourselves from certain actions. But in a government of children, there is only the mass, a dangerous mass that must be restrained from wrong thinking and wrongdoing.
The greatest weakness of the War on Terror is that it is being conducted while disdaining the contributions of individual Americans in fighting terrorism by condescending authorities that preach to us that the path to victory is through a shopping spree at Best Buy, rather than by combating Islamism at home. The real revolution will come when the government is again prepared to treat Americans as partners rather than dependents and to unleash the power of Americans in the face of all threats, political, military and economic. For the light that millions of Americans can create easily outshines even the bright glare of any corporate spectacular.