Nuke: How come you don’t like me?
Crash: Because you don’t respect yourself, which is your problem. But you don’t respect the game, and that’s my problem. You got a gift.
Nuke: I got a what?
Crash: You got a gift. When you were a baby, the gods reached down and turned your right arm into a thunderbolt. You got a Hall-of-Fame arm, but you’re pissing it away.
—Tim Robbins as Ebby Calvin “Nuke” LaLoosh, and Kevin Costner as “Crash” Davis in Bull Durham
Are you comfortable?
Do you have enough to eat without having to scratch your subsistence out of the dust? Are you able to read at night by virtue of fixtures and appliances powered by electricity available to you at the flip of a switch? Can you travel essentially anywhere, using a privately-owned vehicle that can transport you safely and quickly over distances of hundreds of miles in a day? Are you earning an income by working for an organization that produces goods people want or need (or for an entity that provides valuable services to such organizations)?
I’ll wager that the answer to every one of those questions is Yes. But chances are you have rarely, if ever, considered the root source of those blessings.
That you enjoy the comforts of living in the most wealthy society in the history of man is not an accident. Your abundance, your modern conveniences, your economic prosperity (yes, prosperity, even given the extended recession) are all fruits of a harvest sown by the seeds planted for us by the founding generation. The freedom of self-governance and self-determination they left us is directly responsible for the development of the United States into an economic and industrial power; and regardless of your relative station in life here, you are far better off for it than you would have been otherwise.
It is the single greatest gift any human being has ever bestowed on another.
Consider for a moment the price your ancestors paid to give you that gift. With no money, no training, no experience, no supplies, and few weapons to speak of, they dared to take on the most powerful professional military force the world had ever seen up to that time. They left everything, and risked everything. They suffered through Northeastern winters with essentially no shelter, and inadequate clothing. They ate their shoes. And their dogs. 25,000 of them died, representing a loss of 1% of the total population at the time; to put that in perspective, if we had to fight that fight today, we’d see 3.2 million dead—1,095 casualties every single day for eight years—more than double all the American dead in all the wars we have ever fought combined.
Why did they do this? What possessed them to seek a forcible divorce from Britain, and embark on so radical an experiment at such great cost? Well, we don’t have to wonder about that, because in the Declaration of Independence they told all the world for all time why they did what they did. But look at some of their specific complaints and consider whether we are faithfully preserving that which they left us.
As Jefferson put it, the colonists’ core issue was “a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism . . .” “Despotism” is the abuse of government through the consolidation of unlimited sovereign power in the hands of one man. Hmmmm. And Jefferson listed specific examples of this trend of despotic behavior on the part of the British monarch and his minions; see if any look familiar.
He has forbidden his Governors to pass Laws of immediate and pressing importance, unless suspended in their operation till his Assent should be obtained; and when so suspended, he has utterly neglected to attend to them . . . taking away our Charters, abolishing our most valuable Laws, and altering fundamentally the Forms of our Governments . . . suspending our own Legislatures, and declaring themselves invested with power to legislate for us in all cases whatsoever. You mean like a President effectively amending or repealing legislation such as FUBARCare, the CLASS Act, the Defense of Marriage Act, or the Immigration Reform and Control Act through unilateral executive orders and refusals to enforce all or parts of the laws as enacted by Congress, and imposing burdens on States over their objection? You mean like repeatedly suing States to stop enforcement of State laws on matters such as border security?
He has called together legislative bodies at places unusual, uncomfortable, and distant from the depository of their public Records, for the sole purpose of fatiguing them into compliance with his measures. How about a President engaging in endless governance-by-crisis, marked by perpetual stalemates born of his absolute refusal to negotiate so much as a single comma on anything? How about habitually summoning legislators to his mansion to be lectured like so many unruly schoolchildren?
He has erected a multitude of New Offices, and sent hither swarms of Officers to harrass our people, and eat out their substance. You mean like EPA? OSHA? IRS? NSA?
He has kept among us, in times of peace, Standing Armies without the Consent of our legislatures. Would that we had the Army amongst us. Instead we have the NSA tapping our phones and reading our emails, while a heavily armed DHS patrols our streets in armored vehicles and “monitors” Tea Party rallies.
He has affected to render the Military independent of and superior to the Civil power. We have the opposite: a President who has affected to render the military impotent and wholly subject to him and his ideology, while all dissent is purged.
He has combined with others to subject us to a jurisdiction foreign to our constitution, and unacknowledged by our laws; giving his Assent to their Acts of pretended Legislation. Have you met the U.N.?
[P]rotecting [troops], by a mock Trial, from punishment for any Murders which they should commit on the Inhabitants of these States. The present administration has gone to great lengths to ensure that no one in it is held accountable for anything, ever. Eric Holder in Fast & Furious. Hillary Clinton and Susan Rice in Benghazi. Lois Lerner in the IRS targeting episode. Kathleen Sebelius with FUBARCare. The White House always runs its own “investigation,” inevitably concluding that there was no wrong doing. Nothing to see here. Move along, Citizen.
[I]mposing Taxes on us without our Consent. FUBARCare’s individual mandate penalty is a tax, when this President told us there wouldn’t be any new tax in it. “Stimulus” and “Quantitative Easing” are stealth taxes in that they devalue the money you have, such that while you have the same number of dollars, you can’t buy as much with them today as you could yesterday.
He has excited domestic insurrections amongst us[.] This President is an endless font of race-baiting and class-warfare mongering. He was a vocal supporter of the Occupy movement. Divide and conquer.
So many of the founding generation’s specific complaints enumerated in the Declaration find close parallels today, which means we’re slipping back into the very situation the Revolution was fought to eliminate. How cheaply are we giving back that which they paid so dearly to leave to us? Perhaps it’s come to us too easily; perhaps if we’d had to pay some of the cost to earn the freedoms we were bequeathed, we’d be more reluctant to see them taken from us.
We would do well to remember that we do not hold clear title; we are but life tenants, holding those freedoms in trust for the future generations that own the remainder.