Monday, July 03, 2006

Independence Day Thoughts

Just a few random thoughts on why the 4th of July really matters-

I've never bought the "dead white men argument." That is, I've never bought the argument that the founding fathers are somehow less relevant because they owned slaves and didn't support women's rights. The revolutionary period here in the United States was perhaps the most politically creative and politically bold period in human history. It wasn't just the idealism of the Declaration of Independence- it was that idealism as it was put into practice over the next twenty years.

The French Revolution was greatly influenced by the American Revolution over a decade later. Yet in France, the idealism of equality turned into the brutal reality of Robespierre and eventually Napoleon. Most revolutions around the world follow a similar pattern- high minded ideals are transformed into brutal dictatorships.

Only in America did we really succeed- Only in America did the founding generation- George Washington, John Adams- willingly give up power. Only in America did the founding generation not just speak the language of liberty, but also transformed those ideals into a concrete structure of government.

criticizing the founding fathers for owning slaves just misses the point. If you read any of the writing of the founding fathers, many of them had real problems with the institution of slavery. They recognized the contradictions between slavery and all men supposedly being created equal. Contrast this with today, where most people don't recognize the contradictions between their beliefs and reality. (For example, think of those who love to criticize big corporations, yet reap the benefits of living in the world's wealthiest consumer nation everyday.)

The founding fathers implemented a political ideology of freedom and equality that has persisted for well over 200 years now, hardly a feet to scoff at or gloss over. And that's why we celebrate every year at this time. Not to celebrate ideals but to celebrate the fact that these ideals were implemented and persist to this day. We celebrate to remember truly great men, who put the perpetuation of these ideals above their own desire for power.

Happy Independence Day from the lonely libertarian.


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