We go through the motions – often, because it’s the easiest thing to do. Inertia. We celebrate anniversaries without meaning. Wedding days in marriages gone cold.
And, of course, the Fourth.
That vapid day is coming ‘round again. People will drink beer and cook out and go through the motions. Some will launch illicit fireworks – real ones being mostly illegal now.
But only a cognitively dissonant American celebrates his “freedom” – which for the record isn’t even what the day is supposed to commemorate.
Read the words penned on that yellowed piece of parchment drafted by Massa Tom sometime. Few apparently do anymore. It is the “Unanimous Declaration of the Thirteen United States of America.”
Plural vs. singular.
Confederated – that word! – rather than consolidated.
Thirteen independent states. Not a United – at gunpoint – state.
The latter is celebrated; the former forgotten – and not because of absent-mindedness but deliberately, via suppression of the fact because of what that fact implies.
But first, some history:
On that summer day in July of 1776, each former American colony became a state – i.e., a political sovereignty. Delegations from each of these sovereign states were empowered by the respective states to formally declare their individual independence from Great Britain.
New York had no authority to speak for Virginia – and certainly had no power to force Virginia to assent to anything. This included the terms of peace with Great Britain agreed to by each individual state at the conclusion of the war that followed the publication of the Declaration.
There was no treaty with the United States singular but with the United States, plural.
A stark contrast with today – and the existence of a single state governed by a central authority which imposes its will on all the administrative districts that were once-independent states.
In 1861, eleven of the still-independent states decided – reasonably, if naively – to do what had been done 85 years prior, for essentially the same reasons.
The Southern states objected to being governed by a distant authority whose authority had grown obnoxious to them – and which they longer consented to be governed by. And so, they withdrew that consent.
Well, they tried to withdraw it.
Consent of the governed…
Another heretical word – and even more heretical idea.
It has become a dirty word – chiefly because of the failed effort of those eleven Southern states to assert their independence.
This must not be spoken of anymore because of the dangerous implications.
If consent is a moral prerequisite to legitimate government then the government of the United States – singular – is illegitimate on the face of it.
Because no one now living has consented to it. And those now long-dead were made dead for attempting to withdraw their consent.
We find ourselves in the position of an inmate urged to cheer his jailers – and laud his prison.
He is”free” . . . to pace around his cell more or less as he likes. But never to leave it.
He wears what he is told to wear; does the work he is required to do. Paid – if at all – what his jailers decide he will be paid. He is permitted to associate with some – but not others.
As decreed by the authorities who run the prison.
Our jailed bird may eat the food he is offered – but isn’t free to eat what he wants.
He is “free,” in other words, to do as he is told – or be punished for not doing it.
A prisoner urged to do so would not even go through the motions; he has more self-respect. He knows perfectly well that he is not free.
The average American believes he is – often, belligerently – even as he also does as he is told. Even as he is forced to pay for “services” he didn’t ask for and doesn’t want or use but which others do want – and force him to finance.
Even as he is told that he may not transact business without having obtained permission first – and ongoing.
Even though he is well-aware that if he goes about his business without having obtained permission, he will without question suffer punishment.
He knows isn’t free to not pay “taxes” – the euphemism used to describe the legalized theft of his money. Which isn’t really his because this creature called “the government” may seize as much of it as it likes whenever it likes.
He isn’t free to own property, either – no matter how much he paid for it or how long ago it was paid for. He is obliged to continue paying money to a government whose exactions – whose existence – he never consented to.
He may not refuse even to associate with those he would prefer to avoid – who may force him to associate with them.
He is “free” to do almost nothing . . . except what he is told.
Which means, of course, that he – that we – are also prisoners. Our “yard” is larger and our food is somewhat better, but the fundamental thing – that we are not free – is the same thing.
Which is nothing to celebrate – by fireworks or barbecue.
Rather, it is cause for mourning.
And for anger.
“Freedom” without consent is like an air conditioner without refrigerant.
It doesn’t work.
The prisoner knows this.
Americans have forgotten it.
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