With eyes wide open and jaws clenched, they jumped over the cliff. But they did it arm-in-arm.
When this nation's founders pledged to each other "our Lives, our Fortunes and our sacred Honor" on July 4, 1776, they chose -- at ultimate risk -- independence and freedom. And they were willing to fight and die for it.
Today, our firecrackers and sparklers are but faint symbols of our forebears' willingness to sacrifice everything for that independence and freedom they handed to us.
Even given the luxuries of today's existence -- or perhaps because of them -- we don't seem to have the courage to make the same choice: to trust our fates to Providence and our own industriousness and ingenuity. Americans today appear to be inviting dependence instead: the "sure thing" of government bailouts and benefits, and a growing list of "rights" without responsibilities.
Many of us seem to think this country guarantees happiness, rather than the pursuit of it, rather than the blank slate of endless opportunity. So we increasingly look to politicians for succor and courts for outcomes. We harvest the rotting fruit of misspent lives, and then gleefully run to daytime television to squeal profanely on it. We have grown fat upon the land and upon the sugary drinks, and in order to do so have mortgaged not just our children's inheritances, but their future paychecks as well. We have taken John F. Kennedy's admonition to "ask not what your country can do for you; ask what you can do for your country," and turned it precariously on its head.
Given every advantage our predecessors paid so dearly to provide, we are choosing extravagance over thrift, turpitude over virtue, hubris over humility, dependence over independence.
Could present-day Americans have forged the mettle to rebel against the tyranny of the crown? How can you look around and even imagine it?
God help us, if we deserve it.
But first, we must help ourselves.
The first thing to do is to divorce ourselves from the notion that dependence is just a lifestyle choice.
Then we need to renew the spirit of the founders: the pluck of individual liberty, of self-reliance -- of independence. We must walk arm-in-arm as the founders did, but without our hands out to the sovereign. We must rid ourselves of the immoral addiction of pilfering future Americans' resources so we may live cushier lives.
We may never re-create the grit of our founders, who gambled it all to throw off an armed and entrenched authoritarianism. But we don't have to. We can follow their tracks through a much more hospitable pass: the way of ballots instead of bullets.
Independence is a choice you make.
Will it be ours?