Independence Day 2015

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Happy Independence Day!

Take 10 minutes to listen to a reading of the Declaration of Independence, from the Monticello website, read by Thomas Jefferson Williamsburg re-enactor Bill Barker.

founding.com has an annotated version of the Declaration of Independence, with links to explanations of the the specific historical context behind the text.

As today's 239th anniversary of the Declaration of Independence approached, I observed some ambivalence about the usual celebrations among conservative writers. In the last month, we have seen the rule of law turned on its head, with the judicial branch rewriting Obamacare to save it and inventing a new right while discarding precedent after precedent the legal basis upon which substantive due process claims were considered in the past. Like the Red Queen of Wonderland, the Court majority screamed "Sentence first, verdict after!" Having determined the desired outcome, they invented a tortured legal path to their destination. The ability of the people to decide their own laws was swept away. The people seem to have no recourse, no defense against this supra-legislature, this Washington oligarchy which not only fails to defend their rights but attacks them.

We may take a bit of comfort in the fact that this victory was achieved by deceiving the American people: Had the President been honest about his desire to redefine marriage, he would not have been nominated in 2008, much less elected, and would not have been in a position to advance to the Supreme Court lawyers who lied, under oath, about their opinions on the topic.

But there was deception on the other side, too. Americans kept electing Republicans who talked big about defending our liberties and reforming our runaway Federal government, but time and again they have demonstrated what might be generously called a lack of courage but what we fear is really intentional betrayal.

From Thomas Sowell:

When any branch of government can exercise powers not authorized by either statutes or the Constitution, "we the people" are no longer free citizens but subjects, and our "public servants" are really our public masters. And America is no longer America. The freedom for which whole generations of Americans have fought and died is gradually but increasingly being taken away from us with smooth and slippery words.

From law professor John Yoo:

Obergefell short-circuits the political process. Instead of campaigning to persuade majorities in each of the 50 states, as it had done in some states, gay-marriage advocates only had to convince five justices to impose a single rule on the nation. While many may welcome Obergefell's result, its method takes a fundamental question away from the realm of democratic self-government and transfers it into the hands of five men and women who never stand for election and hold their jobs for life....

But instead of allowing the political process to run its normal course, the Supreme Court decided to rewrite Obamacare. On behalf of a six-justice majority, Roberts concluded that Congress could not possibly have intended such a draconian limit on tax credits. It must have meant to give the subsidy to everyone, because that would have made for a more effective overhaul of the health-care system. In other words, the court ignored the plain text of the law passed by Congress to write a better one. The justices may have better legal talents than the average legislator, but our Constitution does not give them the responsibility to make the compromises and judgments reserved to the legislative process.

Sadly, Roberts penned the central dissent in Obergefell on the ground that the majority was rewriting the Constitution. "Under the Constitution," he wrote, "judges have power to say what the law is, not what it should be." But if he wonders where his colleagues got the idea to assume the power of a supra-legislature, he need only look at his own opinion in King v. Burwell. This fault, however, is not his own, or in our stars, but is common to a court that is slowly, but surely, taking away the right of our democracy to govern itself.

Even at the local level we see elected officials, the Fairfax County, Va., school board, in this case, acting like an oligarchy, insisting upon using the public schools to indoctrinate children in the mores of the Sexual Revolution, over the protests of the public that put them into office.

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Should we celebrate this 4th of July?

Luma Simms, who immigrated from Iraq as a child, says she's celebrating the 4th differently this year:

After the Supreme Court's Obergefell v. Hodges decision, I've been ruminating over my naturalized home and wondering if there's a way to give my children a better life, the way my parents assumed that coming to America would give me a better life. The morality of Obergefell is one issue. But beneath all that, what has deeply concerned me is the stark lawlessness of it all....

The fourth of July celebrates the signing of the Declaration of Independence. It was never just an excuse for a backyard barbecue for me. It was a day I observed with deep gratitude and a certain amount of solemnity. It was a celebration of what our predecessors in this land had done, the course they had set us on and the paths they had opened for us.

The Declaration of Independence says some truths are self-evident. Five justices of the U.S. Supreme Court say that we make up our own truths....

The Declaration of Independence says we are endowed by our Creator with certain unalienable rights. Five justices of the U.S. Supreme Court overlook the real and true rights human beings possess and say that man gives man rights--worse, that they as the high court of this country are the ones which posit what is a right and what is not, as their reality changes faster than any written law they might be called upon to interpret....

The Declaration of Independence says that among the rights our Creator God gives us are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. Five justices of the Supreme Court of these United States have said and continue to say that life is not a universal right. That women can end the life of a child in their wombs. They have upheld and continue to hold to decisions that undermine the life of the weak, the poor, and the outcast. They say: "At the heart of liberty is the right to define one's own concept of existence, of meaning, of the universe, and of the mystery of human life," yet they deny those being killed the right to even suggest they might have a concept of existence that includes themselves. In short, these five reduce the "pursuit of Happiness" to access to sex without boundaries.

The Declaration of Independence says government derives just power from the consent of the governed. Five justices of the U.S. Supreme Court have trod upon the people's voice and have usurped power for themselves.

So, as I read the Declaration this year, I boldly affirm its words. There has indeed been "a long train of abuses and usurpations" by this court. They have undermined and invalidated the legal and ethical foundations our Founders went to war to win for us, their posterity. And this makes my celebration this year more a focus on the inspired spirit of man that would stand and recite to the world not only the litany of injustices that its "leaders" exercise upon the people daily, but the logical conclusion of these injustices: that the people could suffer them no longer.

The blogger called "Weirddave," who has been writing a series on fundamental concepts at Ace of Spades HQ, acknowledges the problem:

There is really no argument about it, the fundamental principles upon which this nation was formed have been eroded or eclipsed to the point where the greatest Democratic Republic in history, a model for the world and a beacon for freedom, is now nothing more than another damned dirty Oligarchy, impoverished peons subservient to a greedy ruling class. In short, we've reverted to the norm. American exceptionalism is dead because America isn't exceptional anymore, we're just like all the rest of the countries in the world, just like all the rest of the countries throughout history. We are no longer sovereign citizens, we're are subjects of a ruling elite.

...The Fourth of July holiday celebrates the Declaration of Independence, the document where America declared it's freedom and boldly stated it's grievances against an out of touch ruling elite. We'll have fireworks, fellowship, celebration, and community. Flags will be raised, rockets shot, anthems sung and BBQ eaten. It's all one great big orgy of Americana, and although most people aren't even aware of it, they are celebrating a dead letter, an antiquated concept, an ideal that has been killed by an unelected cadre of black robed tyrants, cowardly legislators more interested in power than oaths and an executive drunk on the power to destroy everything that he is honor bound to safeguard. It's Independence Day! Time to celebrate our independence from the values that made us great! Who cares? It sure feels good, don't it?

You don't buy the idea that America is ruled by an oligarchy alienated from its people? How else would you describe a situation where five robed judges dismiss the opinion of the majority of the public, an opinion shared by nearly every age and society, as grounded in irrational animus, and use that contempt as a basis for invalidating laws passed by Congress and a majority of the states.

The writer calls on Americans to remember their birthright, as set out in the Declaration of Independence, and he urges his readers to Read the Whole Thing. After reprinting the text of the Declaration, he continues:

That document was written 239 years ago by an assembly of the brightest human minds ever joined for one purpose in the history of mankind. Those men accepted the challenge presented by an uncontrolled aristocracy seeking to rule over all people, as had been the case throughout history, and calmly and clearly destroyed the idea of an oligarchy. What a brilliant victory for mankind, for liberty, for freedom for self expression.

Unfortunately you and I are living in the era of Revolution 2: The Oligarchy Strikes Back. Make no mistake, the oligarchy has struck back, hard. Most of the freedoms guaranteed to We The People by the follow up document to the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution, have been abandoned or overturned.... A small cadre of elites, both elected and unelected, has managed to almost completely gut the rights that we are born with. They have succeeded because we have been too busy to notice, or too lazy, or too afraid. The majority of us, Nock's "Mass Man" (what we call LIVs today), have been complicit in their own enslavement. All of this has already come to pass. It is done. Over. Finished.

He urges us to reread the catalog of tyrannies, the facts the Founders "submitted to a candid world" and to note how many apply to us today.Then he challenges us with the memory of the Founders and those who followed in the defense of liberty:

We stand metaphorically on a dusty battlefield of American history. Around us lie the tattered remains of various flags that other Americans have held high as they did their bit to establish or preserve the birthright; Gadsden. Goliad. Gonzalez. Culpeper. 1st Naval Jack. Appeal to Heaven. Behind us the dark eyes of those who came before us watch, in each eye a silent question burns: "What are you made of?". The time has come. We must answer that question with our Lives, our Fortune and our sacred Honor.

A reader asked columnist Matt Walsh to write something upbeat for Independence Day, something to remind everyone that America is still great. Walsh demurred:

I could write patronizing, pandering nonsense telling you everything is fine, this country is awesome, and the future will be bright and filled with lollipops and puppy dog farts. But what good would it do, besides win me some PR points? If you want hope, it needs to be planted firmly in truth, or else it's like administering morphine while you die of kidney failure. It'll make you feel better for a time, but it won't save you....

Walsh cites a long list of indicators of cultural decline and argues against any claim to national greatness based on the past or any hope for future greatness based on a vain belief in national destiny:

But it's a matter of historical record that America was a great country, and an exceptional one. And it's also a fact that the historical record is just that -- history. We have to stop resting on the laurels of our great-grandparents and pretending that somehow, because they came off the boat from wherever and persevered through the Depression, we get to mooch off their greatness for eternity. Frankly, our great-grandparents would be disgusted at our country now, and ashamed of it, and of us. Their greatness was their own. We don't deserve it and have not earned it....

Yesterday someone on Twitter told me that America will "always" be great, no matter what happens or what we do. Others have insisted it's divine destiny that America reclaim its greatness. But this kind of talk isn't patriotic; it's paganism. It paints this country like it's literally the Kingdom of God. As if, out of all the thousands of countries that have existed since the dawn of time, ours is the first that really will last forever. This is to make Americanism into a religion. It's idolatry. It's foolishness, especially considering the Romans and the Greeks felt exactly the same way yet even they were evidently wrong.

We have no guarantees, nor should we seek them. The Lord, in His wisdom, might see fit to smite America from the Earth, like Sodom and Gomorrah. Can't say I'd blame Him. Or maybe He will lead us through this dark age to true greatness. I don't know.

(Looking at the history of the 20th century, it's as if we suddenly decided, sometime after World War II, that civilization was nice and all, but it's hard work, so let's chuck it.)

We ought to celebrate Independence Day for the sake of honoring and being stirred to action by the memory of those who put everything at risk for the sake of liberty, while humbly and soberly acknowledging that we have fallen far short of preserving their legacy.

We ought to celebrate Independence Day, because the Declaration of Independence represents ideals worth celebrating, ideals that are opposed by the architects of our national decline.

A writer at Vox posted yesterday that we should regard American independence as a tragic mistake. The post was riddled with historical inaccuracies, but the gist of it was that this whole checks-and-balances thing gets in the way of Progress like restrictions on fossil fuels.

Yesterday, a friend who works in Christian campus ministry posted an approving link to a Native American activist who blogged about how he made a stink about a chain restaurant's display of the Declaration of Independence. He made a stink because the Declaration includes the words "Merciless Indian Savages," which he claims means that the "foundations of the United States of America are blatantly unjust."

When our server, who was also Native, came to the table, I asked if I could show him something. I stood up and pointed out that 30 lines below the famous quote "All men are created equal," the Declaration of Independence refers to Natives as "merciless Indian savages."

The irony was that the restaurant was filled with Native American customers and employees. And there in plain sight, a poster hanging on the wall was literally calling all of us "savages."

That's literally untrue, and it's telling that he chooses not to quote the entire sentence containing that phrase:

He has excited domestic insurrections amongst us, and has endeavoured to bring on the inhabitants of our frontiers, the merciless Indian Savages, whose known rule of warfare, is an undistinguished destruction of all ages, sexes and conditions.

It is the last item in the Declaration's list of grievances against King George III, and from "has endeavoured" to the end of the sentence, the words are straight out of Thomas Jefferson's "rough draught."

George III had, through his agents in America, stirred up rebellions among slaves and attacks against the colonists by certain Indian tribes. This was not out of any British love for slaves or Indians; these groups were convenient proxies to harass the colonists. This statement is an indictment aimed at George III, not Indians. (Ignore the commas, which were not applied in 1776 with the same rules used today.) The phrase "merciless Indian savages" is qualified by the restrictive clause "whose known rule of warfare is an undistinguished destruction of all ages, sexes and conditions."

This sentence tells us what the Continental Congress thought of the particular Indian nations who were incited by the British against the settlers; it says nothing about what the Congress thought of other Indian groups or about Indians generally. The same American founder who wrote the phrase in question wrote the following in his first State of the Union:

Among our Indian neighbors also a spirit of peace and friendship generally prevails, and I am happy to inform you that the continued efforts to introduce among them the implements and the practice of husbandry and of the household arts have not been without success; that they are becoming more and more sensible of the superiority of this dependence for clothing and subsistence over the precarious resources of hunting and fishing, and already we are able to announce that instead of that constant diminution of their numbers produced by their wars and their wants, some of them begin to experience an increase of population.

Those are not the words of a bigot or a racist.

And yet the activist in question stretches a specific phrase referring to specific people who had attacked innocent settlers so that he can conclude that the "Declaration of Independence is a systemically racist document" along with the rest of our founding documents, and therefore of course the whole system must be overthrown.

The institutions of this nation may be systemically racist, but I do not believe a majority of the citizens are. However, in a nation that is systemically racist, anti-racism is less about personal racist attitudes and more about a willingness to change the system.

(He also misreads the apportionment clause of the Constitution to bolster his case. But Indians weren't counted toward apportionment not because they weren't seen as human, as he claims, but because they were citizens of other sovereign nations and therefore not taxed. And he claims that American settlers, including the Protestant dissenters who settled Plymouth Colony, were really carrying out a 15th century papal bull to subjugate the pagans.)

It is sad that a manipulative misreader of American history with a radical political agenda can gain a hearing among goodhearted people like my friend. Does this also indicate a problem with modern American evangelicalism -- having internalized the Leftist guilt trip and anxious not to seem wedded to political conservativism for the sake of reaching Millenials, must they credulously accept whatever Leftist grievance-mongers claim?

The only antidote is for Americans to understand our history -- not the malevolent caricature concocted by the Left, but the original documents and context -- and to be unafraid to correct the misconceptions being promoted by professional ax-grinders.

In a similar context in 2007, Michael Medved wrote:

The notion that unique viciousness to Native Americans represents our "original sin" fails to put European contact with these struggling Stone Age societies in any context whatever, and only serves the purposes of those who want to foster inappropriate guilt, uncertainty and shame in young Americans.

One of the most urgent needs in culture and education for the United States of America is discarding the stupid, groundless and anti-American lies that characterize contemporary political correctness.

Rush Limbaugh, Jr., father of the radio talk show host, wrote an essay on the men who signed the Declaration of Independence, "The Americans Who Risked Everything":

Of those 56 who signed the Declaration of Independence, nine died of wounds or hardships during the war. Five were captured and imprisoned, in each case with brutal treatment. Several lost wives, sons or entire families. One lost his 13 children. Two wives were brutally treated. All were at one time or another the victims of manhunts and driven from their homes. Twelve signers had their homes completely burned. Seventeen lost everything they owned. Yet not one defected or went back on his pledged word. Their honor, and the nation they sacrificed so much to create is still intact.

It is reasonable to be disappointed in the direction of our national culture, but we should rekindle the Spirit of '76 in our own hearts. We should reacquaint ourselves with the words of the Declaration of Independence and the brave men who signed their names to it, pledging their lives, their fortunes, and their sacred honor, and we should resolve to be as bold in the defense of our liberties as they were.

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This page contains a single entry by Michael Bates published on July 4, 2015 1:57 PM.

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