Tuesday, June 22, 2010

The Last Vestiges of Liberty

As July 4th approaches - a celebration of America's independence from the British Empire - I am struck by a feeling of melancholy to which I am unaccustomed. The reason will become clear as this essay progresses.

On July 4th, 1776, the Continental Congress declared their independence from the British Monarchy and officially became The United States of America. Quite naturally this did not sit well with King George III, and a brutal war erupted between British soldiers and the new Continental Army, formed in 1775. The French government under King Louis XVI covertly supplied the Continental Army with supplies, weapons and ammunition.

In 1777, when the Rebels captured a British contingent of soldiers, events escalated and, in early 1778, the French military entered the war in earnest. What this accomplished was crucial to the success of the rebellion as it evened the military prowess of both sides. Further, in the coming two years, two allies of France also went to war with Great Britain.

Threatening to invade Great Britain and challenge her navy, Spain and the Dutch Republic severely hindered the campaign in the Colonies, drawing critical resources away from America. Britain's naval superiority enabled her to enjoy easy success in controlling the harbors and coastal regions of the Colonies, but only roughly 10 percent of the population was there. The remainder lived inland, and the ground forces of the British were ill equipped to combat the fierce resistance offered by the Minutemen.

When Spain became engaged in the war, the British were forced to abandon the Florida gulf coast. France was the deciding factor, however, because she had a formidable naval force of her own. When the French navy defeated the British navy in Maryland's Chesapeake Bay, it led to the surrender of the British in Yorktown in 1781. Two years later the Treaty of Paris ended the war and culminated in the official recognition of the United States of America as a sovereign State.

Still, it wasn't until four years later that the United States Constitution was signed by the members of the newly-free members of the Constitutional Convention in Philadelphia on September 17th, 1787. And it took another two years to have it ratified in 1789, and America had an official Federal government.

For nearly two centuries thereafter, America prospered and grew into the greatest nation Mankind has ever known. Then it all began to sour...

The key components of our success were the entrepreneurial spirit of our people, our moral and spiritual roots, and our relationship with a free press. Arguably, the former could not have flourished without the latter since success is dependent on accurate information and truth. At our inception, men were honest and journalism followed suit. It was the Miracle-Gro of Liberty.

Our government has slowly but surely plodded its way back to the root cause of the first revolution, though the people are not free from culpability. Generational success passed down has bred sloth, but even worse has been the notion that such luxury is to be expected. When the chain of wealth is broken, the offspring look elsewhere for the meal ticket. Politicians have learned well and become quite adept at capitalizing on that mentality.

The true betrayal has come not from our own propensity to cede freedom for comfort, however, as we have been herded toward that end for several generations. It is the enabling of that herding by a media equally infected by the same propensity, an affliction that has made possible this tragic rejection of a great gift through a collusion to conceal the truth.

It seems to be an inexorable march to our ultimate doom, an end to life as we have grown accustomed. All that our ancestors have fought, bled, sacrificed and died for has been casually cast as funereal ashes to the wind. Once a great patriot advised us that only two things mattered; Patrick Henry said, "Give me liberty or give me death".

If you are reading this, you have a computer or phone with internet access. That is a great thing. I love the technology we enjoy today. It's great to have the cell phone, the flat screen television, the computerized cars, the video games, and everything "I". But think about this; what good would these trinkets be if you were not free to use them as you pleased?

Our forefathers had none of the ease of communication that we enjoy, but no one ever told them they could not assemble and discuss. While they would most likely envy our modernity, they understood through investment the importance of liberty. And as we have learned to spread our messages far and wide, we have forgotten how to whisper in our neighbor's ear.

We have seen a steady progression of our media toward an ideology that they share with the forces determined to hasten the destruction of all that the Founding Fathers fought valiantly to create. The election of Barack Obama has seemingly cemented the relationship between the government and the only entity created ostensibly to counter it. When the forces of power and information join, freedom dies.

Ironically, as we resist a return to our European roots, it took the words of an Irish entrepreneur to drive this notion home. From the Irish Times, a word on the subject from Ben Dunne regarding the press:

“It exposes mistakes. It probes actions. It presents alternatives. Without a free media, freedom would have far less meaning. The common good is served by an independent and principled media.”
Sadly, we have an "independent and principled media" in America, but it is under assault not only from the government it seeks to restrain, but a complicit "mainstream" media. Clearly, if Mr. Dunne is correct, liberty is in serious jeopardy in America and those who stand to defend it - most notably anyone who supports the Tea Party movement - are cast as villians, somewhat successfully.

Look around you. The campaign against tyranny in the 20th century that resulted in such joy has largely been dismantled and forgotten in the last two years. Forgive me, but our prospects look bleak.

So as Independence Day approaches with all the festiveness of the long weekend and the fact of Summer, I fear mine may be partly spent in brooding contemplation of our future. I will certainly partake in the company of loved ones and good food, but part of me will be wondering how close the waterfall's edge looms.

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