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The United States Starts Year 233

This is going to be a great day! I liked Sister Toldjah’s emphatic “What a great day it is to be an American!” [1]. I woke up with a sense of anticipation at what the next year in our nation’s history will be like. What kinds of decisions will we make? How will we improve our standing among other nations? How will we make the lives of people in our country more secure, more joyful, more free?

In years past, we have had a quiz in the local newspaper about the history around this day… it did not show up today. Perhaps it will tomorrow.

They did reprint the Declaration of Independence [2]. I hope people are reading it today and recalling why we formed a new nation, how we made our case for breaking away from England, and how seriously we took this responsibility.

In rereading the text today, I caught sight of something that I thought worthy of mention.

The signers of the Declaration were convinced that the despotism of the King had become so great, that their only choices were continued and deepening subjugation under Great Britain, or willful rebellion and forming of a new nation, and a new form of government.

They were clear that this was not only the right of the people, but truly an obligation.

So, one would wonder why there are not attempts to overthrow our government by those who think it is in need of dramatic change. You’d think we still think that’s is an appropriate model and that we would accept such an event as inevitable.

First of all, there have been attempts. There have been numerous uprisings over the years. Shay’s Rebellion [3], which occurred during the years of operation under the Articles of Confederation, is one example driven by an economic crisis and the punishments that existed at the time. The American Civil War [4] almost succeeded in destroying the integrity of the establish legal republic, again mostly driven by economics, and to some degree, a correct ideal to ensure freedom was extended to all people.

The Civil War could have ended the United States for good. I believe that it was the grace of God that prevented that. However, if it had, it certainly had more right to than Shay’s Rebellion. The point being, if a small group of people don’t like what the government is doing, that does not necessitate overthrowing a government. But if a large enough part of the population is operating under duress, it may be appropriate to seek change.

Part of the reason we don’t find ourselves in a constant state of internal war is that we have created and continue to maintain a form of government that is always in flux. The entire people’s representative legislature (House of Representatives) is elected every 2 years. The Senate, which essentially provides representation for the state governments (although the 17th Amendment causes the people to elect them instead of the state legislatures). 1/3 of the Senate is elected every 2 years, each Senator getting a 6 year term. And the President of the United States, who most closely aligns in concept to the Monarch of England, is elected every 4 years and can only hold 2 terms of office.

This should create ample opportunity to dramatically change the government without firing a shot… and many times, we have. With this much change and voice from the people, there is little hope of the government becoming despotic. Or if it does, it would have the consent of the people.

There certainly is sufficient cause for concern as we become more apathetic. So much energy goes into the Presidential election, and so little attention remains on the other offices. The Presidential campaign itself still garners little real time and attention from the majority of people who will be voting in the election. That’s why the 30 second sound-bites are so carefully crafted… it may be all most voters bother to listen to.

And voters seem to pay just as little attention to the other races. The malaise hangs around all levels of government, and the result may well be a form of despotism that looks like freedom to the electorate, but in reality could be a carefully designed structure to keep people from being too concerned about looking under the covers and seeing what the elected officials are doing with the power and money we’ve bestowed upon them.

Ultimately, our form of government allows for the voters to be unconcerned about the actions of the government, and if we maintain the malaise, we have no one to blame but ourselves if we wake up one day and discover our freedoms have been more tightly constrained. Such as in Iowa, where the new smoking law, the most aggressive in the country at this time, went into effect Tuesday. Smoking is not permitted in any restaurants, bars, public places, places of business, and in homes where day-care services are provided. Smoking is allowed on casino floors at the betting tables and slot machines. I don’t smoke (I did at one time), and I don’t like being around smokers in restaurants, but I don’t think the government should impose these rules on private business owners… I’m fine with the constraints on public property, it’s the private property I have issues with, and I see this as another step toward excessive constraint on freedom. Next it will be another shot at our guns, our faiths, and our right to speak out against the government.

But a large majority of the population would need to be significantly disenfranchised, or more importantly, far more severely constrained, to justify an unscheduled change in the government, or more importantly, its structure. We should not take this type of action lightly.

Which leads me to the part of the Declaration that caught my eye this morning.

In the midst of arguing that the people have a right to abolish their government, the 2nd Continental Congress also said (emphasis mine):

Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shewn, that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security.

We should have a substantially good reason, one that has broad support, and can be well defended in the court of international opinion, to abolish a perfectly good and functioning government structure even if we have elected bad apples. If the government takes the power to consistently and harshly abuse its power, its citizens, its integrity, then the people do need to deal with it. Clearly, the late 18th century American Colonies fit this category.

I hope we all continue to appreciate the bravery of the 56 men who signed this document and placed their lives on the line. We should today honor them, those who fought bravely throughout that war and those that followed, to secure freedom for us today. May we never forget their sacrifices.

We should, within the framework of our existing government, do all we can to engage our representatives and the voting public with the same vigor and enthusiasm our founders had, on topics that really matter. Topics that impact our freedom, our unity as a nation, our ability to grow and succeed as a people for generations to come. Such is the legacy our founders created for us.

And we can do it without violence, and I would hope without acrimony.

So, what will this next year of our country’s history bring?

(Today, BitHead reprinted a piece by Rush Limbaugh’s father [5]. Definitely worth a read. )