Friday, July 4, 2008

Thoughts on the 4th

It is the waning of another 4th of July and this day has given me an opportunity to reflect on the meaning of this momentous day and sadly, how it is abused.

The 4th of July is a day on which we as Americans remember our forefathers' fight against a tyrannical and faraway power. The colonists resented being told how to run the lives they were capable of running themselves. The soldiers of the War for Independence were patriots because they loved their country, as they perceived it, and fought for it. Today, as on so many other national holidays, the 4th of July has been turned into something so much than it really is.

Independence Day, the appropriate title for this day, is about winning our independence from Great Britain, not used as a justification for imperial and overarching endeavors that strongly resemble the tyranny that inspired this day itself.

Using the 4th of July as a day "to honor our brave men and women serving overseas" or "to remember the veterans of our foreign wars" is a shameful political act of sanctimony. The 4th of July is Independence Day and nothing else. Nothing more and nothing less. It is about the patriots who died to rule themselves in their own manner. The 4th of July is not about lionizing our nation's efforts in the bloody European wars of the 20th Century, or our emergence as a superpower. Perhaps it is the nascent historian in me, but I feel that the 4th of July only speaks for our independence as a nation and none of our subsequent exploits. The application of later military endeavors to the patriots of the American Revolution does a disservice to the latter because all they were fighting was their independence from the Mother Country. Men did not die in the fields of South Carolina so that we could invade Iraq twice or save Europe from itself.

Equating efforts of Revolutionary War soldiers with the U.S.'s military ventures of the 20th and 21th Centuries is loathsome and stops at nothing short of worship of the State. The Revolutionary War was about throwing off the yoke of a burdensome and meddling government, not to extend the policies of an expansive adminstration that gives no thought to the consequences of its actions.

Another thing we hear about on this 4th of July: the men and women of our armed forces are fighting for our freedoms.

Wrong. The Revolutionary War heroes fought for their freedoms. If anything, our armed forces are fighting so that the federal government has the freedom to continue to impose its will on the rest of the world. Invading a country that did not attack us does not count as defending our freedoms because nobody was attacking them.

Comparing the Revolutionary patriots to the soldiers of today is intellectually dishonest because their respective missions are fundamentally different, even opposed to each other. One fought to repel imperialism, another fights to support it.

Please note that these criticisms are not directed at the troops themselves but the reckless foreign policy employed by the Bush administration. Too often criticism of the aforementioned adminstration is attributed to disparagement of the troops. Sean Hannity makes a living doing this. Any Bush sycophant has to do that because of the unsustainability of their argument. But this is criticism of the State and its ever-expanding powers, not the brave sacrifice of those who fought to repel such a thing.

Happy Independence Day.

1 comment:

Chris said...

Another interesting question, brought up for discussion by a professor here at the seminary, is whether the War of Independence was a just war or not? Were the signers of the Declaration sinning? A fascinating theological question to be sure, and when I have more time, I want to dig into it. For the record, the unnamed professor did not answer his question, and neither did my pastor, who brought it up in his sermon yesterday.