Liberty, freedom, self-determination. It was 222 years ago this week that a handful of colonists stood and demanded that these rights, inalienable be virtue of being endowed by the Creator, be recognized by the imperial Crown of England.
A bloody conflict ensued. But it is not the date that peace was declared and our nation organized which we recognize as pivotal to our history. No, the day we celebrate was the day our forefathers boldly proclaimed to the world that liberty was their goal, a desire for a life to be spent in pursuit of individual freedom.
Those who signed the Declaration of Independence envisioned a nation rising on this continent which was based on the Rule of Law and respected, unequivocally, the rights of the individual to live their lives free from oppression. To a degree perhaps unimaginable to that band of radical idealists, their vision has come to pass over these two centuries.
To a degree.
Each age has had its problems in the United States. The nineteenth century held slavery. The twentieth, the growth of socialism and its sister, fascism.
But rather than focus on where we have failed, our gaze should rest on the ideal. The freedoms we enjoy today are the direct result of the commitment of men and women who refused to compromise their ideals. Certainly they failed at times, even compromised when they should have stayed the course, the problems and deficiencies we see in society is proof that no one is perfect, and that we fall short of our ideal. But we mustn't be deterred from striving for the goal, for liberty.
It has been said that when one reaches for the highest of goals, he may not reach his destination but he will come far closer than the man who set his sights on a much lower standard. Our standard must be freedom and liberty. Unequivocally, and without compromise.
There can absolutely be no compromises between liberty and oppression, for one is the anti-thesis of the other. If we claim to strive for individual liberty, yet we agree to compromise with the forces of oppression, the loser will always be liberty, and the winner oppression. A little oppression is morally the same as the complete absence of liberty.
It is appropriate that this week be not only the observation of the Declaration of Independence, but also the time of year we as individuals - on average - become free of the cost of government.
For more than half of the year the average American toils not for his family, for his needs, or for his future. No, for the first six months of the year, the average American works to pay the cost of federal, state and local taxes and regulations. Imagine that, between January 1 and sometime around July 4, we were working to pay for government, not feed our kids, pay the rent or save for retirement. We were paying for government.
That is unconscionable. Our Founding Fathers would no doubt be embarrassed at our squandering of their vision. After all, they revolted at a comparable tax rate in the single digits or less. And yet we willingly suffer an effective tax rate of 50%, and much more in many cases.
We are not slaves, but many feel as if they are indentured servants to government. And by and large it has happened with our willing consent. We have allowed ourselves to compromise sacred liberty for temporary promises of security or false prosperity.
But it does not have to be so. We can reclaim our heritage of freedom, not with a gun but with our voice. We can reject the creep of statism, and encourage the blessings of liberty for our land. It will require work, and it will require commitment, and it will require a willingness to stand firm for our beliefs, refusing to compromise with those who would continue to push for more taxes, more spending and more government solutions.
It can be done.
Liberty, freedom and self-determination. Those goals are as worthy of our attention today as they were 222 years ago in a hot convention hall in Philadelphia. And just as a devotion to those goals brought forth this great nation then, so can a renewed adherence to those principles move our nation to heights never before achieved.
Our Founding Fathers felt those principles were worth their "lives, fortunes and sacred honor." Do we?
For the sake of our future, I must believe that the answer is yes.