After nearly four days without power following the freak storm that left millions in the mid-Atlantic states in the dark, one thing I could do when the electricity came back on was try to figure out who coined the mortifyingly apt greeting, "Happy Dependence Day."
Was it the Washington Times editorial page, which so titled its July 4 holiday comment on Obamacare and the burgeoning superstate? Was it author, screenwriter and blogger Andrew Klavan, two days earlier, writing along the same lines at Pajamas Media? Was it the writer of a July 2 letter in the Arizona Republic urging electoral change in November lest we celebrate "Dependence Day" -- as in dependence on the federal government -- from here on out?
No. The earliest use I have found in a by-no-means exhaustive search was in 2010 by cartoonist A.F. Branco marking President Obama's giant spending programs. Recycling the slogan this week, Branco came up with a far more potent image. In his one-frame cartoon, star-spangled letters spell out Happy Independence Day as a gavel labeled SCOTUS whacks the "In" off "Independence." Happy Dependence Day.
That perfectly sums up my sense of the nation's 236th birthday. By too many measures, we are no longer a self-governing people. Our president dictates law from the Rose Garden, as when he recently bestowed amnesty on more than 1 million illegal aliens (unconstitutional). Our Supreme Court rewrites law from the bench, as with the cataclysmic ruling on Obamacare (also unconstitutional). No matter how many fireworks went off across the country on schedule, the rockets' red, white and blue glare gave truth to the pathetic sight of Americans celebrating a state of liberty they no longer actually enjoy. Ask Arizona, which the president and the Supreme Court both recently told, as Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer succinctly put it, to "drop dead." Meanwhile, on the National Mall, the heavy security apparatus imposed over America's official birthday party -- security checkpoints, baggage searches, "eye in the sky" surveillance, police armed with submachine guns -- belie any notion of living in "the land of the free." Whether we admit it -- and we don't -- we are a nation under siege by Islamic jihad even as our individual autonomy falls to the encroaching superstate.
Noting that the Founding Fathers wouldn't have recognized the current form of the government that they themselves designed, the Washington Times editorial quoted an April 1768 letter to The Gentleman's Magazine from Benjamin Franklin, who wrote: "I fear the giving mankind a dependence on any thing for support, in age or sickness, besides industry and frugality during youth and health, tends to flatter our natural indolence, to encourage idleness and prodigality, and thereby to promote and increase poverty, the very evil it was intended to cure; thus multiplying beggars instead of diminishing them."
Franklin's fear was prophetic. Such self-reliance -- what a younger Barack Obama once disparaged as "John Wayne" thinking -- is officially no longer an American ideal. In fact, this is one campaign promise -- to transform this nation fundamentally -- President Obama has fulfilled.
Such fundamental transformation was a long time coming. Its course was largely set three quarters of a century ago during the 12-year reign of FDR, whose signature "New Deal" entrenched the Marxist (socialist, Leninist, progressive, collectivist, Alinskyite -- take your pick) mindset in Ever-Bigger-Government America. In a sense, Barack Obama ranks only as the most audacious of FDR's successors in his ideological drive to socialize the USA. As Obama himself explained in a 1995 interview with the Chicago Reader (unearthed by Obama biographer Stanley Kurtz), the "right-wing ... individualistic bootstrap myth" needed replacing. "We must unite in collective action," Obama said, "build collective institutions and organizations."
That certainly describes SCOTUS-approved Obamacare.
Taking the long view, we might say the collectivists inspired by the Russian Revolution of 1917 have won. The individual has lost. The state has only grown, and liberty has only shrunk. The fireworks went off all right, but somehow, the home of the brave remains in the dark.
At least until November, when we get one more chance.