It’s Independence Day here in the US, in which we celebrate our break with the British Empire. We’re 239 years old and, despite what some sanctimonious Lefty scolds might think, I think we’ve done pretty darned good. We’re not without our problems or faults, some of them serious, but I continue to believe America is exceptional among the nations of the world and that we are indeed a force for good. If you’re looking for some good Independence Day reading, there’s always the Declaration of Independence itself. Think of it as a short ideological summation of who and why we are.
Then there’s the US Constitution and the Bill of Rights, which function as a citizen’s “owner’s manual.” And yes, to those of you in other countries raising an eyebrow about now, we do tend to place those documents on a pedestal. You have to admit, however, they’ve worked well for over two centuries. How many republics and constitutions has France had in that time?
Gosh, it’s become quiet….
By the way, at The Federalist, John Daniel Davidson asks us to consider how the Declaration’s list of King George’s offenses against the (then English) constitutional order and the rights of the American people might well also apply to President Obama.
A lot’s been written around the Web about today on the meaning of Independence day, so I’ll spare you my musings. Instead, I want to leave you with the thoughts of historian Victor Davis Hanson (1) who, writing in National Review in 2008 (2) at a time of growing national discord, wanted to remind us that things often had been much worse and that, on that 4th of July six years ago, we could use a little perspective:
On this troubled Fourth we still should remember this is not 1776 when
New York was in British hands and Americans in retreat across the
state. It is not 1814 when the British burned Washington and the entire
system of national credit collapsed — or July 4, 1863 when Americans
awoke to news that 8,000 Americans had just been killed at Gettysburg.
We are not in 1932 when unemployment was still over 20 percent of the
work force, and industrial production was less than half of what it had
been just three years earlier, or July, 1942, when tens of thousands of
American were dying in convoys and B-17s, and on islands of the Pacific
in an existential war against Germany, Japan, and Italy.
God it is not mid-summer 1950, when Seoul was overrun and arriving
American troops were overwhelmed by Communist forces as they rushed in
to save a crumbling South Korea. We are not in 1968 when the country
was torn apart by the Tet Offensive, the assassinations of Martin
Luther King Jr. and Robert Kennedy, and the riots at the Democratic
convention in Chicago. And we are not even in the waning days of 1979,
a year in which the American embassy was seized in Tehran and hostages
taken, the Soviets were invading Afghanistan, thousands were still
being murdered in Cambodia, Communism was on the march in Central
America, and our president was blaming our near 6-percent unemployment,
8-percent inflation, 15-percent interest rates, and weakening
international profile on our own collective “malaise.”
live in the most prosperous and most free years of a wonderful
republic, and can easily rectify our present crises that are largely of
our own making and a result of the stupefying effects of our
unprecedented wealth and leisure. Instead of endless recriminations and
self-pity — of anger that our past was merely good rather than perfect
as we now demand — we need to give thanks this Fourth of July to our
ancestors who created our Constitution and Bill of Rights, and suffered
miseries beyond our comprehension as they bequeathed to us most of the
present wealth, leisure, and freedom we take for granted.
Still holds true, I think.
Happy 4th of July, folks. Enjoy the hot dogs and fireworks.
RELATED: Also from 2008, a love-letter to America. There is a point of view that sees the American Revolution as a second English Civil War. It’s an opinion with some merit, I think, given that the Patriots saw themselves as defenders of rights granted under the Bill of Rights of 1689. Continuing that theme at National Review, Daniel Hannan, a British MEP who’s more of a Patriot than many Americans I know these days, writes about the meaning of the forgotten flag of the American Revolution. Also at NR, British emigrant to America Charles Cooke considers the civil war of 1776. Cooke’s articles should be on your must-reading list. On American exceptionalism, Jonah Goldberg looks at how progressives really resent it. Finally, Salena Zito takes us to where independence began.
(1) aka, my spiritual leader
(2) Sorry, the old link is broken, and National Review can’t be bothered to provide a searchable archive. Bad show, NR, bad show. Update: Found a re-posting. Do read it all.