Tom Knapp is Managing Editor of Free-Market.Net and publisher of Rational Review.
Mourn on the Fourth of July: 2002
[Note: This column, as well as its predecessor, form the basis of a protest action for the 4th of July. Click here for more information.]
Last year, I sat down on the evening of July 4th and wrote a commentary about the sad state of liberty in the United States of 2001. That article -- "Mourn on the Fourth of July" -- probably elicited as many "you said what I feel" responses from readers as anything I've ever written. I didn't really expect to follow it up on an annual basis, but the events that have transpired since then, specifically the fallout of September 11th, have provided ample reasons for doing so.
Were things bad in the United States a year ago? They certainly were.
A year ago, the American worker labored beneath a tax burden more than ten times as heavy as the most onerous ever imposed on captive colonies by an absolute, and absolutist, monarch.
A year ago, the Swarms of Bureaucrats working dutifully to eat out our substance from their air-conditioned offices in Washington, DC dwarfed anything that Thomas Jefferson, in his worst nightmares, might have imagined when he referred to the Swarms of Officers despatched by George III to eat out the substance of His Majesty's subjects in the New World.
A year ago, we labored under a government that had murdered nearly as many individuals at Waco as the British army had killed in a standup fight at Lexington and Concord 198 years before.
A year ago, there was something else as well: hope.
Hope that it was still possible to redeem the promise of the American Revolution. Hope that a nation conceived in liberty and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal might experience a new birth of freedom and not, under the heel of tyrants following the lead of the man I am now plagiarizing, perish from the earth. Hope that, as the Jews of the Diaspora prayed at Passover each year, we might have our own return -- not to Jerusalem, but to the Philadelphia of 1776 and the promise of liberty that that city, in that time, held out.
That hope has faded considerably over the course of the year between the last Independence Day and this one.
A year ago, American citizens were not deemed "enemy combatants" and held indefinitely in military prisons without counsel, charges or trials by juries of their peers.
A year ago, the U.S. government did not publicly admit to keeping prisoners in other countries where they could get away with torturing them.
A year ago, the occupant of the White House, while usurping a great degree of unconstitutional power, at least refrained from posturing as the military dictator of a totalitarian regime.
A lot can change in a year. A lot has changed in a year.
America's "president" dances atop the graves of 3,000 murdered innocents, smirking as he unzips his fly to urinate on the Constitution.
Troops loiter in the nation's airports, just as they do in all banana republics, stealing from, leering at and groping the passengers and taking anyone who objects away for "questioning."
Students displaying "unpatriotic" posters on their dorm room walls receive visits from the FBI.
El Caudillo's trained monkeys in the departments of "Justice" and "Defense" send their minions sallying forth, at home and abroad, on vague missions with shifting justifications, aping the instructions of Nathan Bedford Forrest (Confederate general and founder of the Ku Klux Klan) to "keep up the skeer."
The 535 members of Congress spend their nights thinking up new methods of destroying liberty and their days voting those methods into "law." Weekends, they spend on the talk show circuit complaining that the White House beat them to it.
The nine political hacks in black dresses who style themselves the Supreme Court look on -- silently.
Yes, the hope has faded. For many, I suspect that it has disappeared entirely. The United States bequeathed us by the Founders and preserved, to some degree, for more than two centuries by successive generations, has met its match in a pack of hyenas: carrion eaters, their lips stained with the blood of the 3,000 whom they did not kill but whose corpses they now feast on.
The goal, if any goal is possible to us, is no longer reform or restoration: it is resuscitation or reincarnation. This Fourth of July is no longer a holiday. It's a funeral or, just possibly, a wake.
Next year. In Philadelphia.