04 July 2014

Happy Independence Day!

It's a holiday much given over to fireworks, barbecues, and mindless flag-waving, but as always, I hope Independence Day will serve as a time for remembering what the United States at its best is really about (it's the mindlessness which is bad, not the flag-waving).  To me, it's summed up in this:

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press, or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

The rest of the Bill of Rights protects various specific rights, and they remain important (the level of electronic snooping we endure nowadays might have been prevented by more respect for the Fourth, for example), but it's the First Amendment that lays down the principles so fundamental that, if we were to lose them, America would no longer be America -- separation of church and state, and freedom of expression.  Those principles have always been under attack, of course -- the Founders well knew that they would be, which is why they put them in the most prominent position.  But there have also always been those who defended and expanded them, and that's the tradition we belong to.

And part of that tradition includes a right to spend a lot of our time being silly and self-indulgent (in loftier language, "the pursuit of happiness").  This has never been a country where Correct Thought is blared from red banners strung across the public square and politics worms its way into everything.  A big part of Americanism is keeping politics and policy out of everyone's hair so we can focus on our personal lives and have fun.  "The personal is political" is at least a strong contender for the most anti-American slogan ever conceived.  The personal is personal, and a free society leaves it alone to be so.

(See also earlier posts on Americanism and renegade culture.)


Blogger Shaw Kenawe said...

Happy 4th to you. And yes, we need to remember what the First Amendment protects us from, although I'm not so sure our SCOTUS understands that concept.

04 July, 2014 10:10  

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