Some 233 years ago we made a clean break from the corrupt Old World of Europe. Fifty-six men risked it all to proclaim in the Declaration of Independence:
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 sums it up — the grand total of good government. This was the first government established by “the consent of the governed.”
The rest is history. Freedom is good at pursuing both happiness and prosperity. Empowered citizens pretty clearly create a whole lot better society than do dictators.
But the most striking lesson of history is sadly the opposite of America’s July 4, 1776, birth. So much of the world has long lived under political oppression — in Asia, Africa, the Middle East, South America and Europe.
It’s been tough to watch and read about the recent protests in Iran, knowing that people are bravely choosing to risk beatings and death to stand up in the streets to speak out for freedom. I’m frustrated that there isn’t something I can do.
And then it occurs to me: the best thing I can do, as an American, is to fight to keep our country all that it should be.
That’s no easy fight. As you well know.
Our governments from Washington, DC, to Hometown, USA, are out of control.
The symptoms are almost too numerous and obvious to list. Rampant spending and debt. Regular attacks on our property rights. Corruption. Arrogance. Nanny-statism. Those relentless assaults on every popular reform — from term limits to voter initiative, referendum and recall. Bald-faced violations of fundamental constitutional rights.
The philosophy running government for some time now directly opposes the creed of 1776. Today’s dominant belief is in unlimited government, the idea that everything is permissible, anything is possible, and nothing is sacred.
Disaster looms on the horizon; the storm clouds of several coming catastrophes are now visible and dark.
Politicians cannot stop the rain. Not even the wizardry of Obama can do that.
But I have faith in you to help us weather the storm. Thanks to your common sense — and mine (available through a free subscription).
Our problems are indeed solvable — tough, yes, but not impossible. What seems nearly impossible at times is our politics. Getting politicians and special interests to stop feeding on us long enough to listen to us.
The American people are not the problem; we are the solution.
While politicians and power brokers contemplate the next trillion dollar Frankenstein fix of our economy — or health care, or some even more difficult project of foreign policy — citizens need to act to get back in the game. To have a seat at the table, as the insiders would put it. A seat at our table.
Electing a good candidate to office or defeating a bad guy from time to time obviously isn’t enough. And good guys left to their own devices often don’t stay so good.
Citizens must remain engaged. We have to hold our representatives’ feet to the fire. To do so, we need fundamental change that puts citizens in charge.
The most powerful and dynamic check on power is the voter initiative, referendum and recall process. It is under constant assault from politicians and special interests. We must protect these essential citizen powers where they exist and spread them to voters everywhere.
That’s the best celebration of July 4th, to restore a government that actually acts within our consent.
Long after penning the Declaration, Thomas Jefferson would argue that he knew no safer “depository” for power than “the People.” Safer than kings or nobles — or even presidents and congressmen.
We, the People, are still the safest place to park political power. Oh, sure, I may be sporting a mustard stain on my shirt from a mishap with a hot dog, and you may even be wearing dark socks with Bermuda shorts, but freedom can and is still counting on us.
On July 4, 1776, our country’s founders pledged their lives, their fortunes and their sacred honor. This July 4 — or July 5, as it happens, today — what can I pledge? What will you pledge?