It’s the Fourth of July. Happy Independence Day! I embrace the opportunity to share necessary insights on our country’s sovereign legacy, and the sobering challenges facing it.
Our American culture is getting overrun, sadly, by radicals determined to displace or redefine independence. Instead of recognizing liberty as protection from arbitrary force, the term has become a benefit, an entitlement from the state, something which must be taken from others then granted to us—by force. In other words, a disturbing contradiction is wiping away our political culture, the values we uphold, and which uphold us.
Liberty is not something we need to gain, as much as realize that we possess. The only thing that we can give one another in regards to liberty is a greater awareness of it. The most deafening (yet thankfully defeated) criticism of this true, negative (i.e. removal of something) conception of liberty occurred during my college days. I went to UC Irvine (the same school where students recently deemed the American flag an offensive appropriation of nationalism or something like that).
I was a French major, and had my fill of French theory, too. Mostly snobby, convoluted, suffused with chronic rejections of power, confused with truth. Interesting discussions ensued, all in a nice accent, though. From Foucault, Barthes, and Derrida (a distinguished professor at my alma mater UC Irvine, where I am writing this essay now), the French “critical theory” mindset would be laid out to me and others a moral relativism based on challenging every context and value within text, a speech, or any other form of communication. This literary theory was called “deconstruction.”
Sadly, its overly Marxist (and ultimately abusive) overtones indicated a subversive rejection for what is true, and what is not true. Like I said, it was moral relativism. If no morals, then no mores, and then there would be no more civil society. No civilization, and no liberty, even the liberty to challenge the notions of truth and error, right and wrong, good and evil.
So, permit me to deconstruct the deconstruction (read, anti-American) mindset, which is set on turning minds away from the wonderful revelation found—and founded—in the Declaration of Independence, the signing of which we celebrate on July Fourth. One of deconstructionist Derrida’s first articles “Declarations of Independences” took on the stunning power and yet controversial uncertainty of the phrase “and by Authority of the good People of these Colonies.”
Who were these “people,” and really, can there be a final meaning to define this singled-out group?
Legal scholar and literary critic Daniel Matthews writes:
Derrida assesses the status of “the people” as the sovereign guarantor of the constitution. Derrida asserts that the people is not only radically indeterminate and internally differentiated but also temporally deferred and so can never be presented as such.
A few problems. The Declaration of Independence is not our Constitution. Too many liberals make this elementary, uneducated mistake.
Second, “the people” are not deferred as much as redefined, and only because We the People, whether you and me today, or generations to follow, must lay claim to the extravagant yet real promises outlined in the Declaration of Independence.
The understanding of natural rights—freedoms of speech, the press, and religious; life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness—these values were handed down in doctrine long before, but would take generations of erudition and conflict to crystalize. The Declaration of Independence did not create our rights. It merely spelled them out (with John Hancock’s elaborate signature at the bottom) to a roguish empire grown too large for its preeminence. Jonah Goldberg rightly indicated that the political figures who signed the Declaration merely responded to the cultural understanding of Englishmen, who had understood their rights and authorities from Magna Carta to the English Bill of Rights of 1689 to the Declaration of 1776.
What differed, though, in the American Revolution from the previous assertions of natural right against the artificial state? Patrick Henry, who himself had declared “Give me Liberty, or Give me Death,” articulated a deeper resonating source for the bold pronouncements of the American colonists:
“It cannot be emphasized too strongly or too often that this great nation was founded, not by religionists, but by Christians; not on religions, but on the gospel of Jesus Christ. For this very reason peoples of other faiths have been afforded asylum, prosperity, and freedom of worship here.”
What is the Gospel? Paul the Apostle declared to wise yet unaware men that “through this man [Jesus], you are justified from all things that you could not be through the law of Moses” (Acts 13: 38-39)
Powerful! Our rights do not depend on man. They exist outside of some created context. They are divinely inspired and available to all, regardless of unjust, unfounded hierarchies.
Because our rights are God-given, not man-granted, we have power and authority. Yes, we need to reaffirm this. Throughout our current political discourse, entitled adult children are dictating to their elders that our rights come from the government. Don’t agree? Review this terse interview between ABC’s Chris Cuomo with Alabama Chief Justice Roy Moore. Their attacks are growing varied and dangerous, too, from foppish, unwise professors, to #BlackLives(Don’t)Matter activists and anti-social in-justice warriors.
We need to revisit and reinvigorate our understanding about why we celebrate Independence Day in this great country, a Redeclaration of Independence. Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker summed up it effectively at CPAC 2013: “True freedom and prosperity comes not from the fist of the government but from empowering the people.”
We the people have so much to celebrate today: an open society where even the most oppressive of presidents is facing a backlash from the sovereign states and people; the proliferation of ideas and options, even in the midst of economic turmoil; the opportunities to relearn and relive our liberty. So, while you enjoy the fireworks, the barbecue, the fun with friends and family, recall the deeper meaning, and the surfacing conflicts which face our cherished independence as American citizens.