On Celebrating the Fourth of July

An Essay by Vin Suprynowicz

Most Americans should be ashamed to celebrate the Fourth

What an inconvenient holiday the Fourth of July has become.

Oh, so long as we stick to grilling hot dogs and hamburgs, hauling the kids to the lake or the mountains, and winding up the day watching the fireworks as the Boston Pops plays the 1812 -- written by a subject of the czar to celebrate the defeat of our vital ally the French -- we can usually manage to convince ourselves we still honor the same values that made July 4, 1776, a date which rings in history.

Great Britain taxed the colonists at far lower rates than Americans tolerate today -- and never dreamed of granting government agents the power to search our private bank records to locate "unreported income." Nor did the king's ministers ever attempt to stack our juries by disqualifying any juror who refused to swear in advance to "leave your conscience outside and enforce the law as the judge explains it to you."

The king's ministers insisted the colonists were represented by Members of Parliament who had never set foot on these shores. Today, of course, our interests are "represented" by one of two millionaire lawyers -- both members of the incumbent Republicrat Party -- among whom we were privileged to "choose" last election day, men who for the most part have lived in mansions and sent their kids to private schools in the wealthy suburbs of the imperial capital, for decades.
Yet the colonists did rebel. It's hard to imagine, today, the faith and courage of a few hundred frozen musketmen, setting off across the darkened Delaware, gambling their lives and farms on the chance they could engage and defeat the greatest land army in the history of the known world, armed with only two palpable assets: one irreplaceable man to lead them, and some flimsy newspaper reprints of a parchment declaring: "We hold these Truths to be self-evident, 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 -- That to secure these Rights, Governments are instituted among men, deriving their just Powers from the Consent of the Governed, that whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive to these Ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or abolish it. ..."

Do we believe that, still?

Recently, President Clinton's then-Drug Czar, Lee Brown, told me the role of government is to protect the people from dangers, such as drugs. I corrected him, saying, "No, the role of government is to protect our liberties."

"We'll just have to disagree on that," the president's appointee said.

The War for American Independence began over unregistered, untaxed guns, when British forces attempted to seize arsenals of rifles, powder and ball from the hands of ill-organized Patriot militias in Lexington and Concord. American civilians shot and killed scores of these government agents as they marched back to Boston. Are those Minutemen still our heroes? Or do we now consider them "dangerous terrorists" and "depraved government-haters"?
In "The Federalist" No. 46, James Madison told us we need have no fear of any federal tyranny ever taking away our rights, arguing that under his proposed Constitution "the ultimate authority ... resides in the people alone," and predicting that any usurpation of powers not specifically delegated would lead to "plans of resistance" and "appeal to a trial of force."

Another prominent federalist, Noah Webster, wrote in 1787: "Before a standing army can rule, the people must be disarmed; as they are in almost every kingdom in Europe. The supreme power in America cannot enforce unjust laws by the sword; because the whole body of the people are armed, and constitute a force superior to any band of regular troops that can be, on any pretence, raised in the United States."

Is this still true today? Or are those who arm themselves and make contingency "plans of resistance" against government usurpations instead branded "conspirators" and "terrorists," and ridiculously associated with Timothy McVeigh (who was kicked out of the only militia meeting he is ever known to have attended -- in Michigan -- and whose actions surely reflect more directly on the screening process of the outfit that gave him his training in munitions -- the United States Army.)

In Phoenix last week, an air conditioner repairman and former Military Policeman named Chuck Knight was convicted by jurors -- some tearful -- who said they "had no choice" under the judge's instructions, on a single federal "conspiracy" count of associating with others who owned automatic rifles on which they had failed to pay a $200 "transfer tax" -- after a trial in which defense attorney Ivan Abrams says he was forbidden to bring up the Second Amendment as a defense.

Were the Viper Militia readying "plans of resistance," as recommended by Mr. Madison? Would the Constitution ever have been ratified, had Mr. Madison and his fellow federalists warned the citizens that such non-violent preparations would get their weapons seized, and land them in jail for decades?

Happy Fourth of July.
Vin Suprynowicz is the assistant editorial page editor of the Las Vegas Review-Journal. Readers may contact him via e-mail at vin@lvrj.com. The web site for the Suprynowicz column is at http://www.nguworld.com/vindex/.


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