An uneasy Fourth

On anniversary of our independence, can we retain our unity?

An ominous cloud had to hang in the air on July 4, 1776.

Delegates to the Second Continental Congress, after all, had essentially declared war on one of history’s greatest powers.

In language that should inspire us all, they concluded their Declaration of Independence in fateful, foreboding verbiage: “with a firm reliance on the protection of divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes and our sacred Honor.”

They had no way of knowing how it would turn out. They had to know each one of them had prepared his own noose, should Great Britain get the best of them. They knew they could lose their money and possessions, their freedom and even their lives. But they knew, too, they could hold onto their sacred honor throughout.

They risked everything to create this country.

Today, 236 years later, another ominous fog has descended on America.

While we celebrate America’s birthday with cookouts and fireworks and a day of leisure, there’s a nagging sense of alarm in many of our hearts.

The nation our founders bet their lives on is being squandered. Its solvency is at risk from our insatiable appetite for comfort and security, and from the power-lust of a ruling elite that has learned well how to enslave us with our own coin.

As for independence, we have odd notions of it these days. We’ve never been more dependent on government – ours and anyone else’s willing to loan us the 40 cents of every dollar our government spends. The U.S. Supreme Court just ruled that the federal government can tax anything for any reason – including to bend us to its will.

“Freedom,” President Ronald Reagan famously warned, “is never more than one generation away from extinction. We didn’t pass it to our children in the bloodstream. It must be fought for, protected, and handed on for them to do the same, or one day we will spend our sunset years telling our children and our children’s children what it was once like in the United States where men were free.”

And where is our sense of unity? Have we really pledged “our Lives, our Fortunes and our sacred Honor” to each
other, the way our forebears did? If so, it barely shows. We’ve rarely been more divided or divisive.

Most of the qualities that made this country what it is – liberty, limited government, self-reliance, honor, faith – seem to be ebbing all at once. Can a nation that survived secession and civil war outlive its own intemperance and indulgence? Are we that strong anymore?

“In all my years of living in this great nation,” reader Terrence Bedell wrote in Sunday’s Chronicle, “I have never been as concerned for the direction in which it is heading as I am at this moment.”

You speak for many, Mr. Bedell. Not since the months following 9-11 has there been such an unease mixing with gunpowder and barbecue in the Fourth of July air.

We do still have that republic born on July 4, 1776. It’s still an open question as to whether we can keep it.

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