As Americans, we have innumerable things to be thankful for, and proud of, on this 232nd celebration of our Declaration of Independence. Many of us who are fortunate enough to live here in Charlottesville feel this obligation more than others, as we have chosen to live in this veritable "cradle of liberty."
America is the product of courage beyond calculation, and the triumph of reason and individual rights over "the monkish ignorance and superstition (which) had persuaded (people) to bind themselves." (Jefferson; see his complete, final letter, regretfully declining an invitation to celebrate America's 50th 4th of July in Washington, DC, here)
Even though its history is short, America has been and remains the freest, most noble civilization the world has ever known. America has saved and defended more human life than any other. It is the economic engine of the world, producing more life-sustaining, life-saving, life-extending, life-enriching, and time- and labor-saving ideas, tools and technologies than any nation on Earth.
America ended slavery - which it inherited from the nations that our Founders emigrated from, and which existed for thousands of years prior to the nation they created.
(Sadly, today, many of our most "educated" citizens have been taught, and now believe, that America was the progenitor of slavery; similarly, many are totally unaware that slavery and institutional discrimination still exist in large regions of our world. Here is but one example; innumerable others are available, for anyone caring to Google the issue.)
America has provided immigrants from the world over with the freedom to build new lives, with no limit on how high they can rise, and to enjoy the fruits of their labors - rights that are denied by other "governments" in a great portion of the world. And in return, many of these immigrants - who are Americans by choice, not chance - have become among our most patriotic, inspiring, productive and happiest fellow citizens.
There is no question that we have our challenges - namely, to preserve the principles of freedom, free enterprise and limited government that produced all the above "miracles," and which were bequeathed to us by our Founding Fathers. Our main challenge, as it has been and always will be, is precisely what they warned us of: complacency, ignorance, and the result - the gradual encroachment of government intervention into, and control over, every nook and cranny of our lives, and the squandering of our earnings in order to fund its ever-expanding bureaucracy, political payoffs and wealth-redistribution schemes. Or, as Benjamin Franklin said, in response to a question as to what it is that the Founders had created: "A republic - if you can keep it."
There is always a role for principled dissent in America: for those who sincerely want to preserve America's legacy, freedom and virtues, and who can make persuasive, fact-based arguments towards that end. Some of our greatest political debates were principled, honest, forthright discussions of these issues, among patriots.
Unfortunately, we are now innundated with hysterical propaganda that arises not from this perspective, but from those whose unspoken intent is the inverse: to transform America into a neutered, compliant, socialist welfare state that will fight neither for nor against anything. To them, America's original principles of individual choice, religious freedom, free enterprise and free markets, secure property rights, and minimal taxation to fund a constitutionally-limited, minimally-intrusive government, comprise the root of all evil. To them, America in its present state is both the cause and perpetrator of all the problems and misery that exists in the world, while the European welfare states they worship - many of which have fomented, appeased, enabled and surrendered to tyranny in all its forms, to one degree or another - are held up as models that America should emulate. And to them, the vilest savages on the planet (and their enablers) are not even remotely as "evil" as America's current political leadership (or our energy industry, or our big businesses, etc.).
That being said, on this 232nd celebration of our Declaration of Independence, it is worth revisiting the most recent challenge to our existence, which is fomenting so much of the vitriol and division in our culture: the attacks of 9/11, and the actions we have taken since then to ensure this never happens again.
Here is a slide show of that tragic day. And here are images of the days immediately following the horrors in New York City, that most of us have never seen before.
That is the legacy of our enemy - Islamist theocratic totalitarians, and of their enablers, both foreign and domestic. It is also a peek into our future, if we do not remain perpetually vigilant, proud, and willing to fight for our survival, security and values. And, when necessary, to take that fight to our enemies (as Thomas Jefferson did, also against Islamist theocratic totalitarians; here).
Lastly, here is one of our greatest presidents, addressing the entire concept of America, and how best to confront threats that face us, to ensure our peace, survival and prosperity. Although this 27 minute speech was delivered more than forty years ago, in the context of another hotly-contested presidential election season, it has never had more significance than it does today.
(If the video doesn't play, go here)
You can download an MP3 of this momentous speech, and see the transcript, here.
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