Tuesday, July 03, 2007

Happy Rebellion Day

On Independence Day, you may be invited (and pressured) to participate in rituals demonstrating unconditional submission to the government, such as pledging allegiance. In these situations, remember the signers of the Declaration of Independence, who publicly renounced their allegiance to their former government. Remember that these rituals are in opposition to the spirit of this holiday, where we celebrate a document that declares the innate human right to "alter or abolish" one's own government when it becomes a threat to liberty.

Not only have authoritarians hijacked The Fourth for the celebration of the state, but they also use it to promote a cult of the soldier. They promote the absurd and insulting claim that our liberties were given* to us by soldiers; again, perverting the meaning of this holiday. The Americans who led the struggle for independence recognized that certain rights were essential to prevent the return of tyranny, and they made these rights sacrosanct by listing them in the constitutions for the new governments that they created (e.g. the Bill of Rights).

Only a tyrant would minimize the importance of these liberties (among them are speech, assembly, publication, and privacy). The misled soldier is the enemy of freedom, not its defender; it is the reporter who assures that soldiers point their guns in the right direction. Only an idiot would deny that there is often risk in the exercise of these essential liberties--that many people (including Americans) have made great sacrifices to bring information to the public or to organize non-violent opposition to tyranny. As important as the role of soldiers is, many others play a role that is no less essential.

When we criticize the American government, we may be told to "love it or leave it". On Independence Day, we are reminded that the government is not America--America is the people. Each of us is part of America, just as each of us is a part of humanity, and we strive to reform the government so that we will not have to fight it in the future. We must resist every step towards slavery. If we permit our enslavement, resistance will be impossible--our lives will be in the hands of our masters. This existential truth is enshrined in a Revolutionary era motto: "Live free or Die."

Cross-posted to Daily Kos and Freedom Democrats

* Footnote: Soldiers protect our rights, they don't give them to us. Just as soldiers protect our rights, the threat to our rights comes from other soldiers. What makes our soldiers different from enemy soldiers? It is the very institutions (academia, journalism, civil society) that are dismissed by the cult of the soldier.

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