Happy Interdependence Day!

July 10, 2013

Independence Day is teetering on the precipice of misnomer. On the verge of becoming a titular holiday. History's version of Sweetest Day.
Designed to celebrate the adoption of the Declaration of Independence, the Fourth of July holiday represents an annual recognition of our revolt against and victory over a repressive monarchical government that took more than it gave.
Still, Independence Day has always represented so much more.
It is a 21-gun salute to every to every people under the sun that chose to slough off the oppressive constraints of any government that denied them the basic human tenets of dignity, liberty and choice.
These forms of government come in many shapes and flavors. Tyrannically authoritarian juntas like the Khmer Rouges. Massively oppressive systems like Soviet Russia. Or hybrid forms of government directed, top-down capitalism like today's China. Regardless of the brand, freedom ends where government interests begin.
Americans have long held that human beings are born with certain fundamental rights. From our founding, we viewed government as a tool -created, appointed and supervised by its citizenry, to protect those fundamental rights. The state is an umpire, brought in to call strikes, balls and fouls. To ensure a level, structurally sound playing field.
So, what happened?
Today, we find ourselves in that physically cozy yet intellectually grey area in which the rabbit feels the water warming, yet does not yet realize (nor wish to know) how high the temperature might rise.
Recently, we've watched the Internal Revenue Service--the very institution tasked with managing much of our new healthcare system, as it harassed specific facets of the American public based upon their political leanings.
We've seen the Department of Justice spy on Associated Press reporters, hacking into phone lines and telephone records, trampling the news agency's First Amendment rights, for reasons still unknown.
We've learned that the National Security Administration has built what can only be described as a monolithic information gathering tool meant to monitor the electronic, wireless and telephonic communications of all Americans. We learned this because of a questionable whistleblower who blew the lid on these programs. A whistleblower who is currently fleeing for his life as American agents chase him across Asia and Europe. Pronouncing him a spy and a traitor, without having provided a shred of supporting evidence.
We've learned that the Federal Bureau of Investigation has diligently worked on the completion of a domestic surveillance operation involving the utilization of unmanned drone technology capable of gathering intelligence on citizens nationwide.
Yet, last Thursday, we raised our glasses to this greatest nation on earth. Which it remains. In concept. This grand American experiment remains the most vibrant and successful form of governance the world has ever known. But some of the more recent images taking shape in the American kaleidoscope should bring us pause.
No less an authority than America's greatest biographer, Alexis de Tocqueville recognized early on what would represent America's strengths and weaknesses. He pointed out that the American republic would endure until the day Congress discovers that it can bribe the public with the public's money. Well, we've seen that threshold come and go.
He further noted that America possessed many men of principle in both political parties, yet saw that there was no party of principle in America. Today, Tocqueville would likely consider the term "political principles" an oxymoron.
Were he alive, Tocqueville would likely walk our streets and marvel at the energy, dynamism and wherewithal. Yet, I've no doubt he would be deeply troubled by recent events. Would find disturbing the idea that our government, the alleged people's tool, resource or referee, has evolved into something entirely different. Something beyond its initial scope. Something slightly unnerving. Under the guise of the Patriot Act, the U.S. government has become quite comfortable with spying on its citizens, its media, its allies, on everyone for whom it allegedly works for and with.
If the U.S. government was a friend, you would likely describe him as highly paranoid, and very aggressive.
Yet, given all of this, there is little outrage. No massive outpouring of delusion and antipathy. We have been so successfully pitted against each other by virtue of these meaningless political labels that we can no longer see the forest for the trees.
We overlook our government's creepingly autocratic tendencies, choosing instead to mock our neighbors for their political partisanship.
Government secretly spying on its own citizens? That's nothing. I can't believe the liberals high jacked healthcare!
Government institutions harassing U.S. citizens for practicing free speech? Hogwash. This economy is on Bush and the GOP!
Familiar with the cliché, "Divide and conquer?" Well, we have been.
The lion's share of our elected representatives are ideological in party name alone. Most of them pay tactical lip service to, but essentially avoid, most of today's contentious ideological issues. The party leadership is well aware of the public relations necessity of fanning the flames. Firing up their constituents as they role out the shiny little partisan issues every election period. The ones over which we're willing to claw each other's eyes out. So, the electorate ends up digging trenches across the front lines. Preparing for battle. We stoke the partisan wars while our politicians and their parties live a more or less symbiotic relationship - one that thrives off of the existence of a common enemy. And keeps the public distracted from more important developments. Like the lack of jobs these last six years. The stagnant economy. The increasingly Orwellian tendencies of this nation's government bureaucracy.
We have become completely interdependent on our political labels. On the parties, and their group think, and their talking points. Most of us no longer possess the ability to critically think through the issues. To realize that we're focused on the wrong parts of the map. To realize that we're behaving in the very fashion that our political labels/parties want us to: contentiously, divisively and without a compass.
We celebrate Independence Day only because our founders were able to see past their petty differences. Were able to focus on what was truly important. If the British monarchy could have fanned the flames of petty differences like the republicans and democrats do today, you'd be reading this missive over tea and crumpets.
Our system works, warts and all. We allocate capital, maintain the rule of law, and offer opportunity to everyone on a scale hitherto unseen. Yet, we must never get so comfortable that we are not vigilant. Remember, any government big enough to grant everything you need is also big enough to take everything you've got.
Keep in mind what Independence Day is not: a celebration of government. Our government is a tool. Like a hammer. A shovel. Or a gun. Each has a purpose. But, in the wrong hands, each becomes a weapon.
Independence Day celebrates our ideology. Our system. The greatest political and economic marriage this world has yet known. A methodology that has purveyed opportunity, liberty and happiness on a grand scale. Her future, and ours, rests upon our ability to keep her safe from all who would do her harm.

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