(John Andrews in the Denver Post, July 16) “We have no king but Caesar.” It was an odd thing for the elders of Jerusalem, royal David’s city, to tell the governor from Rome. But politically this was the safe answer, so Pilate proceeded to execute the freedom-talking seditionist in question, one Jesus of Nazareth. Independence Day set me on a historical odyssey from the ancient emperors to the modern idea of liberation. After a detour through the dictionary and the calendar, this column resulted. The theme is political birthdays. The destination is America in 2076. Come on along.
Why do the last four months of our year have Latin names signifying 7 to 10? Because the Romans inserted, ahead of September, two months named for Julius Caesar and Augustus Caesar. Fittingly, July and August now abound with memorable dates from the endless struggle of freedom versus tyranny.
Next month begins with our statehood anniversary, Colorado Day. This month Americans have already marked the Fourth of July, the French on July 14 celebrated Bastille Day, and on July 26 the Cuban people (some at least) will hail Fidel Castro’s revolutionary beginnings. Britain paused on July 7 to commemorate last year’s Al Qaeda attack.
I won’t be around for the U.S. Tricentennial on July 4, 2076. But my three-year-old grandson Ian will be here, God willing. You know youngsters who likely will be too. Ask yourself, though, and don’t answer too quickly – will the United States itself be around for that great celebration?
Some would say it absolutely will be. I am more inclined to say it depends. The Constitution was written “to secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity.” Liberty is real for you and me because previous generations kept faith. Our posterity, Ian and his descendants, won’t have it unless we keep faith. The responsibility is ours.
Nobody in 2006 wants to live under a Caesar who claims divinity and rules by decree. Britons, French, and other Europeans, Cubans and the Third World, even the Islamofascists, all profess their visions of liberation. Yet for mankind’s sake everywhere, it is the July 4 vision that must prevail.
The Declaration of Independence, America’s birth certificate, teaches that our rights come from nature and God, not from laws and majorities. Limited government, consent of the governed, and as a last resort the right of revolution, necessarily follow. This remains the best mode ever devised for organizing society, bar none.
The July 14 vision in Paris, “liberty, equality, fraternity,” may sound similar. But it licensed atheistic and utopian illusions that led to the Terror and then to Napoleon, Caesar reborn – by way of their own renamed months and statist cult. Unlimited government, albeit in tamer forms, has haunted the French ever since. It haunts their brainchild, the European Union, still today.
Castro’s July 26 communist vision goes further, annulling morality and truth entirely. It substitutes an ethic of raw power, where might makes right and no limits on government remain. Far from dying out, this evil has new life in Venezuela and Bolivia. Nor is it completely dead in China and Russia. The Marxist dream dies hard.
As for July 7 and the 2005 subway bombings, Melanie Phillips’s new book “Londonistan” raises dark questions. Is Britain already too far gone in EU multiculturalism and appeasement to resist the Islamic colonizers within? Will the Mother of Parliaments honor Magna Carta or Sharia, come 2076? It depends.
Which political anniversary will shine brightest 70 summers hence? Americans need to understand our own heritage better, for starters. Too many, according to surveys, don’t even know Marx’s “to each according to his need” from Jefferson’s “all created equal.” The relativist curriculum in government schools doesn’t help.
Blather like the Diane Carman and Ed Quillen columns in the Post on July 4, painting President Bush as morally equivalent to George III, doesn’t help either. We should debate our differences like grownups. And we should never take for granted this “republic, if you can keep it,” which Benjamin Franklin and the other Founders gave us. Its keeping is our most sacred trust.