What is the place we call “America?”
Is it a piece of cloth, a patriotic song, some words written on a piece of parchment? No, not really.
Is it Mom, apple pie and a baseball game? Probably not.
Is it a place where millions of people try moving to from around the world? It used to be.
America is something far more than any of that. We are supposed to be the nation founded on three simple principles: “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.” Do you recognize those words? Those words are immortal. They come from our Declaration of Independence, when a bunch of otherwise mild-mannered citizens stood as one and told their former king to stuff his scepter where the sun doesn’t shine. (Well, since most of them were gentlemen, they probably used nicer language).
Yet, one has to wonder what Jefferson, Franklin, Washington and Madison would think if they time-travelled to the 21st Century. Is this still the same nation animated by the spirit of “Live Free or Die?” Not judging from the reaction most people have had to the COVID 19 virus. Most of us have rolled over, content to hide in our homes at the behest of petty tyrants: men and women who tell us we cannot see our family members, our friends, or even tend to our gardens. Not unlike the British Redcoats of the 18th century, we’ve been treated to the men and women of the police telling us “Protesting is not an essential activity.” There is a bigger difference between 1760’s Boston and 2019 Boston, besides our generation’s lack of a Crispus Attucks; a patriot ready to stand his ground in order to defend his freedom.
Our nation’s first flag declared, “Don’t Tread On Me.” That was then. Now so many of us seem to have adopted the motto, “Ok, Stomp All Over Me If You Promise to Keep Me Safe.” I’m pretty sure Washington would have the same reaction to that as he had to Horatio Gates, after Gates fled the Battle of Camden out of cowardice. Sort of a “Duuuuude, what is up with THAT? Get out of my space, before I run you through with my sword!”
Have you ever read the Preamble to our Constitution? It lays out what those ordinary men who kicked a mighty empire’s ass back across the Atlantic thought the proper role of government to be. In case it’s been a while, here’s a hint. Nowhere does it say the government needs to keep you safe. Nowhere does it say one of the responsibilities of government is to keep you from getting sick. In fact, up until a couple of months ago, the nation pretty much understood the responsibility for keeping you healthy rested with YOU. We’ve been through numerous other epidemics in the last century, a century marked by the most brazen expansion of governmental authority in modern history. Yet even through the Spanish Flu, the Bird Flu, Ebola, SARS and MERS, nobody ever thought stripping Americans of their most basic civil rights, their inalienable rights, and placing them under virtual house arrest.
But I guess I shouldn’t be surprised by this turn of events. It’s been a slow decline over the last 45 years. First we allowed ourselves to be frightened into approving a secret court – something every Founding Father would have blanched over. Later, we stood idly by as our nation’s leaders saw fit to engage in foreign wars that didn’t directly involve the United States. Then came 9/11, and the wheels started coming off the cart even faster. Despite our throaty rumbles of “Terrorists Won’t Change My Life,” we let terrorists scare us into stripping in front of uniformed strangers before getting on an airplane, allow law enforcement to bug houses of worship and launch our two longest wars in history (among a host of other dubious practices), all in the name of “safety.” Think about it: there’s an entire generation of Americans who have no idea what “freedom of association” really means in practice; they’ve grown up with the idea that you need to get a permit to hold a rally.
So, here we are. It’s time to ask yourself a question and answer it truthfully: are you animated by the Spirit of ’76? Would you stand against impossible odds, knowing you would likely die, as past heroes at Bunker Hill and the Alamo did?
Or would you rather hide in your house, waiting for the day the government tells you it’s ok to come out and play?