The unique, and now endangered, Spirit of '76

By Krista Kafer ( In my youth, a mischievous friend asked if other countries have 4th of July. I can’t remember how I answered the trick question. Perhaps I was fooled. Of course other countries have a 4th of July, they just don’t celebrate it. Only in America is the 4th of July Independence Day.

Quite a few countries have a national day of celebration. Mexico has Cinco De Mayo. The French have Bastille Day, Canadians have Canada Day. The English have Guy Fawkes Day, to name a few. On these days, citizens enjoy food, parades, flags, fireworks and revelry in the name of their country. What makes Independence Day any different?

Independence Day isn’t just about independence from Great Britain. Other countrys’ patriotic days celebrate independence from a colonial power. Independence Day isn’t just about celebrating American culture – apple pie, rock’n’roll, baseball, and all that. Flag-waving, parades, festivities, and traditional foods are common expressions of national pride everywhere. What makes Independence Day special?

On this day, Americans celebrate the unique proposition on which our nation was founded. This proposition, articulated in the Declaration of Independence 231 years ago, states that

    all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. — That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, — That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness.

In simple terms, our nation was founded on the revolutionary principle that everyone has an equal right to life and liberty given by God not the government. The purpose of government is to protect these rights. When a government fails to protect its citizens’ rights, the people have a right to change or abolish it and institute a new government founded on just principles.

That is exactly what our forefathers did. They severed ties with the old order and established a new government based on the protection of natural rights and self-government. For their efforts, we enjoy a level of freedom and prosperity unprecedented in history.

Americans enjoy freedom in every aspect of their lives. Americans have access to an uncensored press and can openly criticize their government. They can practice their religion without going to prison or being beaten while the government stands idly by. Americans can pack up and move to another part of the country without permission from the government bureaucracy. They can open a business without having to bribe officials. Americans can choose their own doctor and don’t have to wait in line for months to get surgery.

Americans can choose their careers and set their financial priorities with little restriction. They can even choose not to participate in the culture. "Freegans," profiled recently in the Rocky Mountain News, are Americans who choose to eat out of dumpsters to protest American materialism. Try eating out of the dumpster in the developing world. America is so prosperous that people can choose to eat out of dumpsters without getting dysentery.

The sheer span of choices open to Americans defies imagination. In the words of Dinesh D’Souza, “In most of the world, even today, your identity and your fate are largely handed to you. In America, by contrast, you get to write the script of your own life.” When the government protects our God-given rights to life, liberty, and property, the result is that individuals enjoy a “self-directed life,” to use D’Souza’s phrase.

Unfortunately, freedom is easily taken for granted and when no longer valued, easily given away. Consider the freedoms eroded in the past year of legislative activity here in Colorado. Teachers, parents, and elected school board members are forbidden from instituting abstinence programs in schools. Restaurant owners cannot choose to allow smoking. Increased property taxes mean politicians will have more choices on spending your money while you have fewer. This is just the short list.

Consider what’s on the horizon. Politicians on both sides of the aisle are talking about censoring the press. Politicians on the left want to socialize medicine, a prescription for medical rationing, long lines, and a loss of personal choice. They also want to foist heavy taxes and regulations on businesses thereby limiting the choices of consumers, business owners, and workers.

And there's more: Radical environmentalists want to restrict public use of public land and private use of private lands. Teachers' unions want to roll back laws providing parents and students choice in education.

Basic liberties are at stake. The government, rather than protector of life, liberty, and property, is slowing becoming that which takes away the rights of some while conferring privileges upon others.

When that happens, the 4th of July becomes just another day to eat hotdogs, drink beer, and be entertained. Heaven forbid.