Editor's Note: Today was the last day of classes at Colorado Christian University, prior to a ten-day Thanksgiving break. As students headed home, Prof. Greg Schaller compiled the quotations below to remind them of our country's cherished tradition of an official day of gratitude to the Almighty, in times of prosperity and adversity alike. Of all the campuses across the land, think how few were those where any such academic reminder took place. -- John Andrews
Continental Congress November 1, 1777... National Thanksgiving Day Proclamation: Forasmuch as it is the indispensable duty of all men to adore the superintending providence of Almighty God; to acknowledge with gratitude their obligation to him for benefits received, and to implore such farther blessings as they stand in need of; and it having pleased him in his abundant mercy not only to continue to us the innumerable bounties of his common providence, but also smile upon us in the prosecution of a just and necessary war, for the defense and establishment of our unalienable rights and liberties; particularly in that he hath been pleased in so great a measure to prosper the means used for the support of our troops and to crown our arms with most signal success
Samuel Adams, Governor of Massachusetts, Thanksgiving Proclamation, 1795: And I do recommend that together with our Thanksgiving, humble Prayer may be offered to God, that we may be enabled, by the subsequent obedience of our Hearts and Manners, to testify the sincerity of our professions of Gratitude, in the sight of God and Man; and thus be prepared for the Reception of future Divine Blessings.
George Washington's October 3, 1789 national Thanksgiving Proclamation: WHEREAS it is the duty of all nations to acknowledge the providence of Almighty God, to obey His will, to be grateful for His benefits, and humbly to implore His protection and favor; and whereas both Houses of Congress have, by their joint committee, requested me "to recommend to the people of the United States a day of public thanksgiving and prayer, to be observed by acknowledging with grateful hearts the many and signal favors of Almighty God, especially by affording them an opportunity peaceably to establish a form of government for their safety and happiness." President John Adams' March 23, 1798 national Fasting and Prayer proclamation: AS the safety and prosperity of nations ultimately and essentially depend on the protection and blessing of Almighty God; and the national acknowledgment of this truth is not only an indispensable duty which the people owe to Him, but a duty whose natural influence is favorable to the promotion of that morality and piety, without which social happiness cannot exist, nor the blessings of a free government be enjoyed…
October 3, 1863 Abraham Lincoln national Thanksgiving Day Proclamation: It has seemed to me fit and proper that they should be solemnly, reverently and gratefully acknowledged as with one heart and voice by the whole American people; I do, therefore, invite my fellow citizens in every part of the United States, and also those who are at sea and those who are sojourning in foreign lands, to set apart and observe the last Thursday of November next as a Day of Thanksgiving and Prayer to our beneficent Father, who dwelleth in the heavens. And I recommend to them that, while offering up the ascriptions justly due to him that, for such singular deliverances and blessings; they do also, with humble penitence for our national perverseness and disobedience, commend to His tender care all those who have become widows, orphans, mourners or sufferers in the lamentable civil strife in which we are unavoidably engaged, and fervently implore the interposition of the Almighty hand to heal the wounds of the nation and to restore it, as soon as may be consistent with the Divine purposes, to the full enjoyment of peace, harmony, tranquility, and union.
('76 Editor) Hearing from Greg Schaller, my CCU professor pal, about an online book club starting up at Redstate.com, I compared their list with mine as compiled a few years back at the suggestion of Kevin Teasley, my school-voucher activist pal. The overlap is interesting, and either list is a needed reminder that we're well repaid by devoting more time to the writings that endure, and less to the ephema of journalism, TV-radio, or blogs (this one included).
So first, here's the read-and-respond shelf recommended by Redstate:
1. A Message to Garcia by Elbert Hubbard
2. Liberal Fascism by Jonah Goldberg
3. Economics in One Lesson by Hazlitt
4. Liberty & Tyranny by Mark Levin
5. The Road to Serfdom by F. A. Hayek
6. The Conservative Mind by Russell Kirk
7. Free to Choose by Milton Friedman
8. Conscience of a Conservative by Barry Goldwater
9. The Federalist Papers
10. Democracy in America by Tocqueville
11. Mere Christianity by C.S. Lewis
12. God and Man at Yale by W.F. Buckley
13. Witness by Whittaker Chambers
14. The Political Writings of St. Augustine
Then here's my list as put together for Teasley back in 2003. He asked for my "ten best" in terms of books that had the greatest impact on my life. The order in which they are listed is a combination of chronology and categories, not necessarily the most impactful from 1 thru 10. 1. Science and Health, Mary Baker Eddy It taught me to love the Bible.
2. The BibleIt engaged me with Jesus Christ. 3. The Everlasting Man, G. K. ChestertonIt grounded me in Christian tradition. 4. Mere Christianity, C. S. LewisIt showed me the beauty of truth.
5. The Conscience of a Conservative, Barry GoldwaterIt awakened me politically.
6. The Law, Frederic BastiatIt was my primer in political economy.
7. The Road to Serfdom, F. A. HayekIt set me against collectivism.
8. Ideas Have Consequences, Richard WeaverIt bonded me to the permanent things.
9. The Lord of the Rings, J. R. R. TolkienIt convinced me that life is a sacred quest.
10. A Man for All Seasons, Robert BoltIt inspired me with the possibility of heroic integrity.
In looking over the authors on both lists, I'm gratified to have met, or seen in person, Bill Buckley, Milton Friedman, Friedrich Hayek, Russell Kirk, Jonah Goldberg, and Barry Goldwater. This is said not to name-drop, but rather to record my sense of obligation for helping to hand on our heritage of faith and freedom to the rising generation of the 21st century, in return for having known -- if only slightly -- some of the giants who handed on that heritage in the 20th century.
(CCU Student) In most aspects of our world today, we see the increasing absence of moral authority. Citizens in all venues of vocation are striving for premier results, success, and position, and moral authority has become forgotten and lost all meaning and value. Ethics and principles have been replaced with mendacious and disingenuous acts, most of the time being intentional. An area that I feel has lost its honorability and morality is our current government. This is not a statement made based of feeling, biased, or emotion; rather, on facts and evidence. Our government has resonated the sound of a progressive movement towards socialism within the past few months, which directly contradicts the foundation set forth by our founding fathers. Thomas Jefferson, a deist and author of the declaration of independence, stated the following about his vision for the people of the United States: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, 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.”
-(Thomas Jefferson, Declaration of Independence)
So there is no doubt that our country was meant to provide citizens with rights and prosperity. Our new governmental administration has decided to contradict the Constitution and take our country in a new direction. Now, change isn’t always a bad thing, where the question lies with, is it morally right to go against the will of the people and foundation of our country? There are three fundamental concepts that compromise moral authority in our nation.
Universal healthcare is a current economic and political proposal that brings into question the matter of ethics and fairness. The government has digressed into a position defending and promoting the passing of a bill providing everyone with free healthcare. Sure, it looks great on paper, but in this economy, it is deemed as further government acquisition of another aspect of our lives. It is essential for the government to be involved to an extent, but where should the line be drawn? The new administration is unbalanced and unchecked, giving democrats the chance to advance any laws they want. But how about morally, is it fair to those that do not wish to see taxes increased to pay off this bill, which will cost twenty percent of our entire economic revenue?
Next, we take a look at the separation of church and state. Recently, the government has conveyed their message that they are impelling the separation of the church and state rather then coalescing the two. The problem is, however, that the separation is a one-sided deal, as the government receives their taxes from churches, while the churches aren’t getting the appropriate rights or privacy.
For example, if Proposition 8 in California would have passed, it would have required all churches to wed same and heterosexual couples regardless of denomination or affiliation. So churches are paying these high stipends, complying with federal law, and still aren’t able to obviate themselves from governmental affairs. The church has also attempted to accelerate the process of implementing the teaching of Creationism in schools, only to be thwarted numerous times in congress. In addition, it has been proven that Christian men founded our country on Christian principles and morals. Nine of the original thirteen founding fathers were bible- believing Christians, and this is proven throughout their actions. In 1777. Continental Congress voted to spend $300,000 to purchase Bibles, which were to be distributed throughout the 13 colonies. George Washington is identified today as an anti governmental advocate and once stated:
“Government is not reason; it is not eloquent; it is force. Like fire, it is a dangerous servant and a fearful master.”
-(George Washington, on Political Parties and Government)
Thirdly, there is the issue of abortion. In 1973, a case titled Roe v. Wade voted in favor of the pro-choice movement and abortions became legal. Since then, the government has done little to ratify the law, and has been negligent and deemed Presidents who sought reform as derisory. It is a controversial topic that has been debated time over time for the past quarter century, while no progress has been made. The government recently is in the process of enacting a law in the universal healthcare bill that would take taxpayer money to assist the federal in funding abortions. One has to question, why weren’t the American citizens involved in the inquiry, or informing of their own tax money going towards funding a cause as influential as abortion?
This isn’t just a matter of pointing the finger at a single person; rather, it’s the corruption of government and how they’ve inveigled the media into preaching subliminal messages to its citizens. And to be impartial, government isn’t the only ones abusing this concept of absence of morality; it’s everywhere in our daily lives. As our society as a whole advances towards ideology of socialism and progressive liberalism, the line of moral ethics and values continues to move further and further back. At what point, however, will the line of morality be abolished, and fundamental Constitutional rights become eliminated? Therein lies the salient question, so I believe we should turn to the Bible to follow what God says. In Romans 13:1, God says to obey the government, but lest not forget that he is in charge of the grand scheme.
“Let every person be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except by God’s appointment, and the authorities that exist have been instituted by God.” -(Romans 13:1, Holy Bible)
Prior to last week's Colorado Christian University all-campus event, the "Symposium on Faith, Family and Freedom," members of the CCU faculty and fellows of the Centennial Institute have engaged in a spirited debate over the proper role of faith in the public square. Part of this debate has turned on the question of whether or not our founders were Christian and the level that Christian ideas and values went into the shaping of our government. There was a discussion of whether some scholars over-emphasize, while others ignore, the role that Christianity played in the American founding.
As Christians we are, of course, conflicted between the two “cities” in which we reside. While our ultimate hope and aspiration is our residence in the City of God, our temporary residence leaves us concerned with the City of Man. As Christians, our ultimate concern is with salvation; as citizens of the earth, we are concerned with establishing the best possible political order in our temporary residence.
The tension that exists between these two cities is great. It has been central to our recent debate on our country’s founding fathers. As we consider our founders, most can be placed into one of two camps: Christians or Deists. As Christians, we know that our salvation is found only through the saving work of Christ. Deists do not subscribe to this belief and, as such, are not saved. This is of great concern to Christians, as God commands us to evangelize those who are lost.
When we turn to our consideration of the City of Man and the establishment of the best regime, we need to temporarily set aside our primary concern for the lost, and consider what pragmatic doctrines work toward the establishment of good government. As Christians, we can agree that Jefferson’s deism is indeed faulty and ultimately tragic. However, his worldview that recognized a Creator God who authored the proper order of how man ought to live in society is one that Christians can wholeheartedly endorse.
Doug Bandow and the CCU Symposium summarized well the common ground that our Christian and Deist founders shared: A common Christian moral worldview. Both sides of our recent debate concerning the role of faith in both the founding should agree on this.
So while the debate will continue regarding whether the role of Christianity in the shaping of our founding has been over- or under-emphasized, we can certainly share this common ground.
On September 17, 1787, thirty-nine of the delegates at the Constitutional Convention, having met for four long, hot, and humid summer months in Philadelphia, had finally completed their task. On that day, they lined up and signed their names to the completed document.
The debates had often been heated and the disagreements significant, concerning the powers of the national government, the representation of the states, and, of course, slavery. Yet in the end, the final version was a Constitution that has endured for over 221 years. It is the longest surviving, working constitution in the world today.
The Constitution is indeed worthy of respect and honor because of its long survival. But survival of a regime and survival of a constitution is not good in and of itself; just as survival of a tradition isn’t good for its own sake. The perpetuation of a tradition or a Constitution must be judged on what it is, not simply on its endurance. We can all think of many examples of governments around the world that are surviving, but that we (as well as its citizens) would certainly prefer to see fail.
Abraham Lincoln delivered the eulogy for a man he admired greatly: Henry Clay. Clay was an early leader of the Whig party, to which Lincoln was a member before the Republican Party emerged. In his eulogy, Lincoln said of Clay: “He loved his country partly because it was his own country, and mostly because it was a free country; and he burned with a zeal for its advancement, prosperity, and glory, because he saw in such the advancement, prosperity, and glory of human liberty, human right, and human nature. He desired the prosperity of his countrymen, partly because they were his countrymen, but chiefly to show to the world that free men could be prosperous.”
Henry Clay was patriotic toward his country. But his patriotism was not a blind faith loyalty based simply on the fact that he resided here. It was a loyalty to both the principles of the founding and the Constitution crafted from those principles. Lincoln shared this loyalty and dedicated his presidency to the preservation of the Union and its Constitution. However, Lincoln would have been the first to admit that had the Union not been worth preserving (because of what it was about), it certainly wouldn’t have been worth the loss of over 600,000 lives in the Civil War in order to preserve it. So what was and is so significant about our Constitution that Lincoln was convinced that waging a lengthy war at the cost of so many lives was indeed worthwhile.
When we discuss the significance of the struggle to preserve the Constitution, we need to be clear on two things: first, what exactly are we preserving; and second, what is the nature of the attack that is being made against it.
Be clear, our Constitution is under attack. The center of the attack is made against the two things Lincoln thought were so important to save: the Constitution and the concept of the “rule of law” that is essential to the Constitution’s preservation. The method of attack is two-pronged. The first is to debunk the text and original meaning of the Constitution. The second line of attack argues that we can re-interpret the text whenever we deem it necessary and when it suits our purposes.
Today there are two primary and competing schools of thought when it comes to Constitutional interpretation. The first school is described well by former United States Supreme Court Justice William Brennan.
In a speech delivered at Georgetown University in 1985, Brennan claimed that “the genius of the Constitution rests not in any static meaning it might have had in a world that is dead and gone, but in the adaptability of its great principles to cope with current problems and current needs.” What Brennan was in fact saying was that the text of the Constitution really has no meaning, or a least no meaning other than what we happen to decide to give it today, regardless of whether our modern interpretation has any resemblance to the intent of its authors. This perspective is also unconcerned as to whether or not our interpretation will be completely different in 50 years, 20 years, 1 year, or even tomorrow. What Brennan describes is a school of constitutional interpretation that favors a “living” or “evolving” constitution. The meaning of the text is no more than what we choose to give it, and we grant ourselves great latitude to change our interpretation any time public opinion has changed.
It is this school of interpretation that has given us the remarkable constitutional “reasoning” in several recent cases of, “the evolving standards of decency.” This argument has been put forth most notably in recent capital punishment cases. To see how this works, considering two recent cases will suffice. In 1989 the Supreme Court concluded that it was constitutional to execute individuals with low I.Q.s. The majority concluded this because there did not exist at the time a consensus among the states as to whether or not such practice would offend the 8th Amendment. However, just a few years later in 2002, the Supreme Court concluded that we could no longer continue this practice. Why? Because of the “evolving standards of decency.” According to this interpretation of the Constitution, the 8th Amendment prohibition of cruel and unusual punishment is completely dependent upon public opinion! Thus the rightness or wrongness is not determined by the text of the constitution, the principles behind it, or the intent of its authors. Rather, it is simply the adaptive interpretation as exhibited through public opinion. This understanding assumes that constitutional interpretation is simply majority will and that this will determines the rightness or wrongness of something. Of course, if we follow this argument to its logical conclusion, the institution of slavery was right, as long as it had popular support!
The competing school of interpretation argues that rather than having a living and evolving meaning, the Constitution has an “original intent”, and that American jurisprudence is based upon it. With this understanding, our application of the laws, and interpretation of the Constitution is bound by the intentions of those who ratified it. Obviously, this interpretation is in stark contrast to the constitution of Brennan that has no “static meaning”, and is forever adaptable.
If we view our Constitution as meaning only what we want it to mean, when we want it to mean that, we are violating the principles of rule of law and constitutionalism. Rule of law is based upon the need to have consistency of law, equal treatment of the law and everyone being “under” the law. Central to the need for consistency of law is that the law, and more importantly, the Constitution from which our laws are crafted, has a sense of permanence that is not easily altered. I am, of course, not making the argument that our Constitution is perfect, nor am I saying that improvements to it are impossible. The point is that there is a proper and deliberate method of changing the Constitution through amendments. The answer to changing the Constitution is not to have five Supreme Court justices simply redefine the terms for us, nor for we as the citizens of the Constitution to be disinterested or apathetic and idly watch as infringements on our Constitution take place through executive and legislative fiat.
Lincoln warned us that the greatest threat to the Union would not come from an outside force, but instead, from within. In his famous Lyceum Address, he stated: “At what point, then, is the approach of danger to be expected? I answer, if it ever reach us it must spring up amongst us. It cannot come from abroad. If destruction be our lot, we must ourselves be its author and finisher.”
The title of Lincoln’s Lyceum address was: “The Perpetuation of Our Political Institutions.” His audience was somewhat stunned that he would question the survival of the Union and her constitution. When he delivered his speech in 1838, most of his audience had concluded that the country was a well-oiled machine with no chance of faltering. Of course, it was not long after that speech that the Union did face its crisis of survival. Lincoln believed that the seeds of the movement toward secession, when the South refused to accept the results of the constitutionally held election of 1860, were sown decades earlier, when a growing mindset of disobedience to law and a weakening of the loyalty to the Constitution was growing.
My point is not to be an alarmist. Rather, it is to have us return to Lincoln’s concern for the nation: does she reverently hold to the hard work laid out by the founding fathers, the principles of the Declaration, and the Constitution created in order to establish a More Perfect Union? Failing that devotion, a breakdown of constitutionalism and rule of law are certain to take place.
The socialists want to take over our country. Shall we allow them? It's not an idle question. I see signs that the United States is close to be taken over from within by Barack Hussein Obama, a development similar to those in Germany at the beginning of the 1930s.
I grew up under the Nazis, and what I saw then there I see now here. There is nothing theoretical when I speak about what happens when a nation throws God out of government and society and when Christians become religious bystanders. I am not part of those who want some people to look bad by calling them Nazis, as Nancy Pelosi and so many people do nowadays. My writing is based on my own experience and that of my family. We were there.
The White House launched what could be called a "snitch" program by asking Americans to forward to a White House e-mail address anything regarding health care reform that they consider "fishy." This should help the government, explains the White House director of new media, Macon Phillips, to uncover the truth about the president's position and find the "disinformation" about health care "reform." The "snitch" program is opening the door to Gestapo methods.
When I was a child, Gestapo agents took positions in front of our church and wrote down the names of those who entered. It was intimidation, and everybody knew what it meant to be of different opinion than the Nazi government. My parents entered the church nevertheless, along with us four children. My father, a civil servant, in spite of being sacked when the Nazis came to power, did not compromise. For my parents, the greatest preoccupation in those years was the integrity of us children whom they didn't want to be infected by Nazi philosophy. The Gestapo had their informants everywhere, and they liked to discover through innocent children what their parents were up to. It was forbidden by law to listen to foreign radios and could lead to death penalty if found out. My father used to listen at 10 p.m. to the Swiss station Beromünster so we children wouldn't notice.
Are we headed for a Nazi-style totalitarian abyss? Find out in "Defeating the Totalitarian Lie: A Former Hitler Youth Warns America"
According to media reports, the end-of-life-counseling, part of the health care "reform" in the bill before Congress, contains the philosophy that not all people have the same value for society and that, therefore, treatment for old people should be different than that for young people. In various television shows, the issue of the possibility of euthanasia is being discussed. This is also a criminal Nazi concept at the heart of their ideology. The Jews were declared by "law" to be less valuable than the Arian German race and eventually killed. Important for the Nazis also was the contribution of a person to society. Handicapped and old people were of no use to them. Therefore, they were led to a cost-saving death.
Our home in Germany was close to the Bodelschwinghsche Institute in Bethel, a complex where disabled people were looked after. When a Nazi commission arrived to pick up these people to be killed, the head of this Christian institution, Pastor Friedrich von Bodelschwing, put up such a ferocious and noisy battle for their lives that the commission had to give up and depart. But the euthanasia program nevertheless went ahead and was followed by the Holocaust. Does the health care project lead to an early end for old people for cost-saving reasons? One cannot trust the Democratic Party, which has abortion in its political platform and therefore is most likely also open to euthanasia. I prefer the clean direction of the patriotic tea party movement, which has taken our corrupt government establishment to task.
Obama did not visit Israel, our only democratic ally for many decades in the Middle East, but he made a speech to the Islamic nations and spoke of a new beginning. I did not hear him talk about the ceaseless firing of Arab missiles into Israel, asking them to begin change with themselves and stop firing missiles. Instead, he set up a Gestapo-like apparatus in the American Jerusalem Consulate to monitor Jewish movements in the neighborhoods of Jerusalem and the West Bank. Obama guaranteed the Palestinian Authority Israeli land they want, including East Jerusalem. Via the Israeli ambassador in Washington, he and Secretary of State Clinton try to dictate to the Israeli government what they should do and not do. At the same time, however, a senior adviser to PA President Mahmoud Abbas, Rashideh al-Mughrabi, declares in an interview with WND, "I don't believe there are any civilians in Israel; all of Israel society is a military society and therefore a military target." He joins Obama, who promotes abortion, in the philosophy that lives of others do not matter.
There are many discussions about what could be the real purpose of Barack Hussein Obama. It is important to know what his aims are to understand what we are facing.
In my book "Defeating the Totalitarian Lie," I speak of the enemy within and the enemy outside. I have a list of enemies of God, a few names only as examples, just to make the reader understand the essentials. Obama represents the melting of the godless enemies within and outside the United States in what is the coup de grace for a corrupt society. With other words, Obama's trillion-dollar projects belie a purpose to cripple the American economy and integrate a weak United States into the communist/socialist United Nations world order. This includes fake reasons to make the American people come along. If these projects became law, I believe, the middle class would have such strong financial difficulties that people would be unable to resist him. Therefore, rather than bipartisan understanding. rejection is the need of the hour.
The priority for Hitler as for Obama was then and is now to control the lifelines of their respective nations, which includes the silencing of the opposition so that they cannot be removed from power. I described in an earlier article how Hitler reached absolute power. Obama is struggling to get there.
What links the enemies within and without is organized godlessness. The lies of the outside aggressors and of the inside helpers may have different purposes, but they are all anti-American. I had to face the fact that my personal lies and my personal immorality made me blind to the nature of the Nazis and their anti-God purpose. Hitler could use me and millions of others, making us morally co-responsible for his atrocities in which I had no part. Every American who loves this country has to face the same responsibility for his government. Christian bystanders were in Germany and are in America the most important helpers of totalitarian politicians. America needs a moral rebirth.
Here's what I mean: Abortionist Barack Obama and Fidel Castro are part of the enemies of God because of the unchanged evil inside of them, their disregard of human life. They are on the wrong side of the battle line. Their purpose and actions are an insult to God.
The political and ideological battle line, therefore, is not between Democrats and Republicans, or between capitalism and socialism. The Nazis (national Socialists) were not Fascists. Fascism is not totalitarian. It is an ordinary immoral dictatorship. In their ideology, the Nazis were always part of global Marxist Socialism. Marxism, with its hatred and envy, is in its roots godless and incompatible with Christian teachings and therefore with our Constitution. Germany went down because of godlessness, and America is sliding down for the same reason. Obama and Pelosi, to name only two, are closer to the Nazis than to our Founding Fathers and our Constitution.
The economy is not the heart of the matter. It is only a consequence. The real issue where fundamental change is asked for is the relationship of this nation and of every American citizen with God and His commandments. When I speak of God I mean God, our creator, not religion. This country has too many laws that stink. Society has to be cleansed. America must become literally a nation under God. Then America can change the world. We need a president and members of Congress who stand for truth and life and not for lies and death.
Hilmar von Campe is the author of "Defeating the Totalitarian Lie: A Former Hitler Youth Warns America." Having grown up under the Nazis, he offers a unique perspective on the rise and fall of Nazi Germany. He warns that there are many similarities between the Nazi society and America of today. Von Campe lectured at Colorado Christian University as a guest of the Centennial Institute in April 2009. This article appeared on WorldNetDaily.com 8/18/09, reprinted here with the author's permission.
Might there be a parallel between the situation of America today and that of ancient Israel many centuries ago?
Against God's cautions, as He defined and invited individuals and peoples into face-to-face relationship with Him, ancient Israel asked to return to Egypt as slaves rather than endure the wilderness. Later they asked for judges, then they asked for kings.
America’s founders wisely confined the role of the state to dealing with bad actors, outside its boundaries and within. For the law-abiding masses, the non- involvement of government depended on effectiveness of citizens' consciences and their overarching regard for God.
But current US political leaders, no longer limiting their attention to lawbreakers, now take aim at America’s law-abiding citizery, proposing to serve as their “conscience" by codifying in law the dos and don’ts of our consumption (“cap and trade”) and the dos and don’ts of responsible living (“healthcare”). Sounds like ancient Israel to me.
Will America stay on what some call the riskier path of maintaining the freedom of its people? Or will America veer from the course of freedom and elevate an unknown body of bureaucrats to do the work of the individual's conscience for him -- with a stick?
Will Americans trade our freedom for the uniquely intrusive environmental and healthcare initiatives before us?
(Denver Post, July 5) In lieu of fireworks, a cannon boomed at sunrise and sunset over Lewis and Clark’s campsite on a Missouri River tributary in present-day Kansas on July 4, 1804. They drank a toast and named the place Independence Creek. It was the first-ever Fourth of July celebration west of the Mississippi, writes Stephen Ambrose in “Undaunted Courage.”
This weekend, 233 years after the Declaration of Independence claimed for Americans our “separate and equal station… among the powers of the earth,” the Colorado map abounds with reminders of the nation’s heroes and heritage. We overlook them amid the daily routine. Let’s note a few examples and think about why they matter.
Colorado was at first part of Kansas Territory. We were later called Jefferson Territory, commemorating the man who authored the Declaration, bought the vast West from France, and dispatched Lewis and Clark to explore it. Jefferson County is all that’s left of that, though a town in South Park also bears his name.
Independence was a mining camp between Leadville and Aspen. It’s gone, but mighty Independence Pass remains, great for summer snowball fights when we were kids. Independence Street traverses Jefferson County, a hundred blocks west of Washington, Adams, and Madison streets. Other Denver streets honor Franklin and Jay, Jackson and Lincoln, Grant and Sherman. Up the Platte there’s also a Mt. Sherman and a town of Grant.
But as for the community where I live, “there was no Centennial,” James Michener assures us in his 1974 novel by that title. No, in pioneer days there wasn’t, but since 2000 there has been. Life imitates art. Colorado’s moniker as the Centennial State, of course, came with our statehood year of 1876, a century after the original Glorious Fourth. Town names logically followed, first fictional, then real.
Lest this historical ramble seem too lofty, we can also recall the old Centennial Racetrack near Littleton, where, if nothing politically profound occurred, at least liberty and the pursuit of happiness flourished. And for the Michener fans, we’ll note that a road in Douglas County bears the name of his imaginary Venneford Ranch. An Aurora restaurant even enshrined his trapper Pasquinel.
All quite diverting, but proving little, you say. What’s in a name anyway? Cinderella City once sat astride Jefferson Avenue in Englewood, after all. What is history, you’ll scoff with Napoleon (he of the astute Louisiana land sale, three cents an acre), but “a set of lies agreed upon.” Or blunter still, you’ll say with Henry Ford that history is bunk. But as an American and an heir of Western civilization, I’ll say it’s not.
Listen to the land. Get past the nondescript stuff, tune out the schlock, and you’ll hear Colorado place names echoing with inspiration from something new and special for human freedom that began in 1776 and hasn’t stopped yet. It has continued through 1787, 1815, 1863, 1876, 1917, 1941, 1964, 1989, 2001, and right to our own day when Navy Seal Danny Dietz was memorialized with a statue and a president was nominated at Mile High.
To look lovingly at the map of our state is to know Faulkner’s wisdom that “the past isn’t dead; it isn’t even past.” Our past is present and our past is good. It elevates and nourishes us. Barack Obama talks about remaking America, transforming America, laying a new foundation. He’s welcome to try, but a lot of us will resist fiercely for the reasons indicated here.
Make her better, yes; but honor her, celebrate her, cherish and guard her above all. The heart’s blood of generations mapped her. The truer our sense of place, of history, of destiny – the sweeter our Independence Day.
July 4, 2009, finds me filled with positive patriotism as always, but with a shadow of concern.
Our country has had the occasional president who did not believe in the truths of the Declaration or the restraints of the Constitution. But we have never had one who did not believe in the essential goodness of America itself. In Barack Obama, sadly, we now have a president who is an unbeliever of all three.
I am confident we will defeat him and survive him. Yet this is a somber Independence Day for me, because of the grave danger he and his personality cult and his socialist agenda pose to this land we love. With this bad man in power, Americans face a new and deadly challenge to our ideals. Let us rise to the occasion.
It’s not hard to love Independence Day. There are fireworks, picnics, baseball games, and a long weekend. What’s more, the air is filled with patriotism. On the Fourth, it seems everyone is thankful for freedom and proud to be an American.
My Fourth of July wish is for this attitude to last all year long. Our public dialogue these days seems to focus on pragmatic questions, like “How much will taxes go up?” or “Can government spend enough money fast enough to mitigate unemployment?” That sort of talk is a missed opportunity for those who believe in both America’s greatness and its founding principles.
Today we are celebrating the act, two hundred and thirty-three years ago today, of fifty-six courageous patriots who signed the Declaration of Independence. Together with the framers of the Constitution, signed some eleven years later, these founding fathers birthed a nation based on individual freedom and its corollary, a strictly limited government.
This risky experiment was a tremendous success. The freedoms built into the American system led individuals here to create the world’s leading society – the most innovative, the wealthiest, the most charitable, and arguably the most moral. While other countries labor to keep their citizens from leaving, America is a beacon of hope for immigrants around the world who want the freedom to make their dreams into reality. America rebuilt Japan and Europe after World War II. Millions around the world, in places like France, South Korea, Bosnia and Iraq, owe their freedom from tyranny to the U.S. We provide 60% of the world’s food aid, and we are spending $15 billion fighting AIDs in Africa.
There is a sentence in the Declaration that we all know by heart: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, 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.” This stirring sentence is, of course, an ideal. While at times, our nation has fallen short, striving for this ideal has made America the world’s greatest country. I’m proud to be an American, and if you’re an American you should be proud, too. So let’s talk about it!
Even on the other 364 days of the year, let’s remind others what’s special about this country and push to preserve it. Whether we’re talking about health care, taxation, or environmental policy, let’s remember to ask what’s consistent with America’s tradition of liberty. When my father fled Communism and came to the United States in the 1940s, he was not seeking someone to pay his dental bill – he was seeking freedom. When the subject is foreign policy, let’s bring up America’s special role in the world. If we’re talking about regulating what a Cheerios box says, or about campaign finance laws, let’s talk about freedom of speech and what our founding fathers endured so that we would have the protections of the Bill of Rights hundreds of years later.
Let’s change our public dialogue – whatever the question, make the answer, “liberty.”
May God watch over our uniformed men and women, fighting for our freedom this Independence Day, and may God bless America.