Friday, July 01, 2005

Happy Fourth of July Weekend

A lot of readers and computers users are away from their computers over the weekend, and that goes double for major holiday weekends like this one, so let me wish everyone a happy and safe Fourth of July. I'll be posting over this weekend, so you'll have plenty to read when you come back on Tuesday.

Let me also ask you to take a few minutes over the next four days to go and read what all the fuss is about. You can find the Declaration of Independence here; read a bit on its history, authors, signers, etc. while you're there, too.

Most Americans are familiar with those stirring words, which are actually the second paragraph:
We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. --That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, --That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness. Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shewn that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed.
Powerful words and, even today, vaguely dangerous. "Abolish?"

But take a futher moment to read the "long train of usurpations," ie. the long list of government transgressions, which the colonists found sufficient cause to break away from Britain. Most American aren't at all aware of them. And yet, we are still, today, intimately familiar with what they put up with. For example:
He has refuted his Assent to Laws, the most wholesome and necessary for the public good.
Their King refused to approve laws the public wanted that they felt important to them.
He has erected a multitude of New Offices, and sent hither swarms of Officers to harass our people and eat out their substance.
Starting to sound familiar?
He has affected to render the Military independent of and superior to the Civil Power.
A military force, which in those days did many of the functions of the police, FBI, etc., had grown separate from and disconnected from the people they served. Or, as Memphis Mayor Willie Herenton called it, "they are my men."
For imposing Taxes on us without our Consent.
The colonists were taxed, at the worst, roughly 10% of their income. Ten percent Last time I did the math, and I really did sit down and calculate it, I was paying over 40% of my income in various government taxes, fees, licenses, excises, charges, etc. As the Founders noted above, we put up with it because as intolerable as it is, it's familiar and changing things is a bit scary.
For depriving us in many cases, of the benefit of Trial by Jury.
Asset forfeiture is now the law, where your property is taken first and then you have to prove your innocence to (attempt) to get it back. Good luck. You may also find yourself in jail for a year or more waiting for the government to "assemble its case" against you.
For suspending our own Legislatures, and declaring themselves invested with power to legislate for us in all cases whatsoever.
A faraway body decides that the local government isn't doing the job and takes over for them. Say, in much the same way we find so many things Federalised when they ought to be State or County or local issues.

You get the idea. Or at least I hope you do. Have a safe weekend. Take a moment to thank any veterans you see. Ask yourself what is your country really worth and what should it really be?

Happy Fourth of July.

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