Berliner, Michael S., Tribune-Review/Pittsburgh Tribune-Review
America's cities and towns will be filled with parades, fireworks and barbecues in celebration of the Fourth of July on Wednesday, the 231st birthday of America. But one hopes that the speeches will contain fewer bromides and more attention to exactly what is being celebrated.
The Fourth of July is Independence Day. But America's leaders and intellectuals have been trying to move us further and further away from the meaning of Independence Day, away from the philosophy that created this country.
What we hear from politicians, intellectuals and the media is that independence is passe, that we've reached a new age of "interdependence."
We hear demands for mandatory "volunteering" to serve others, for sacrifice to the nation. We hear demands from trust-busters that successful companies be punished for being "greedy" and not serving society. But this is not the message of America. It is the direct opposite of why America became a beacon of hope for the truly oppressed throughout the world. They have come here to escape poverty and dictatorship; they have come here to live their own lives, where they aren't owned by the state, the community, or the tribe.
"Independence Day" is a critically important title. It signifies the fundamental meaning of this nation, not just of the holiday. The American Revolution remains unique in human history: a revolution -- and a nation -- founded on a moral principle, the principle of individual rights. Jefferson at Philadelphia, and Washington at Valley Forge, pledged their "lives, fortunes, and sacred honor." For what? Not for mere separation from England, not -- like most rebels - - for the "freedom" to set up their own tyranny. In fact, Britain's tyranny over the colonists was mild compared to what most current governments do to their citizens.
Jefferson and Washington fought a war for the principle of independence, meaning the moral right of an individual to live his own life as he sees fit. Independence was proclaimed in the Declaration of Independence as the rights to "life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness." What are these rights? The right to life means that every individual has a right to his own independent life, that one's life belongs to oneself, not to others to use as they see fit.
The right to liberty means the right to freedom of action, to act on one's own judgment, the right not to have a gun pointed at one's head and be forced to do what someone else commands. …