Thursday, July 4, 2013

The Irony of Celebrating a Nostalgic Past


The fourth of July is seen as this great holiday. Well, by some people. Some people use it to remind people of the "Good Old Days", those halcyon times when everybody was happy and lived in blissful peace and nobody ever hurt anybody ever, or took away another's free agency, and everybody could buy guns whenever they wanted to.

Other people (*coughtumblrcough*) ironically celebrate the idea of the fourth, using it as an excuse to post sarcastic pictures of bald eagles and American flags, with the all-caps protestations that we are, in fact, free dammit.

I am not guilty of this honestly sorRY CAN'T HEAR YOU OVER THE SOUND OF MY FREEDOM
But by celebrating this sometime-in-the-past state of freedom, as enshrined in the comic above, which I've seen in a few places today, I think we're forgetting something very important.

Freedom hasn't ever really, truly existed in America. Yeah, predominantly white, rich landowners rose up against an unjust tax over 200 years ago and threw off the shackles of one government that was, I will grant you, incredibly repressive in a few very important areas. Taxation without representation, tea in the harbor, blah blah blah, all that jazz. Poor and rich rose up together and fought a war, even though in the Continental Army was vastly over bloated with officers, mostly because rich people were the ones who wanted to fight, and the poorer side of the population (while enlisting in larger numbers initially), had to leave because--surprise, surprise--they couldn't support themselves when the government wouldn't pay them for the time they were spending.

Meanwhile, the Virginians we all know and love (Washington, Jefferson, Madison, yadi yad), while outwardly professing some kind of adherence to liberty and fraternity and equality, yay, were all slave holders. That means that they kept people in bondage against their wills, without ever returning anything but food and shelter. Technically, according to some viewpoints, probably okay--after all, why do you need anything but food and shelter in order to survive and, at least in part, live happily? That doesn't change the fact that the free agency of these individuals was being infringed upon. Strike one against the beautiful, utopian vision of ~freedom presented by nostalgic right-wingers.

Okay, so slavery sucked and it wasn't really our best moment. I think we can all agree on that. But let's fast forward. Surely after the Civil War there was ~freedom! Well sure, if you ignore the Jim Crow laws (both in the south and the north), and the crippling economic and political sanctions placed upon the south in the wake of that conflict. Not to mention the restriction of the vote from blacks, and the continuing fight for suffrage for women.

This fight for equal rights for all sorts of people still isn't over, meaning we still don't have true freedom. Blacks are still discriminated against, especially in the south. The poor are kept poor under an enormous pyramid of governmental power, through taxes and health insurance requirements and child support laws and a bevy of other idiocies. Ordinary people are being spied upon and--if things get too out of hand for the government's taste--they can even be assassinated by drone strikes. In order to take advantage of mass transportation within one's own country, one must submit to molestation. A woman in a hijab can't even walk outside her front door without being subjected to racist comments and the small-minded idiocy of her fellow Americans. Homosexuals can't get married. Doctors can't help their patients make the best choices for themselves.

We're not ~free. We've never been ~free. Oh sure, there's been a modicum of 'freedom' that's been offered to the American populace--so long as that populace has been white, male, and owned property. So yes, by all means, celebrate the fact that at least once upon a time, America had representation that actually meant something. Celebrate the fact that there is at least something left of the framework that could have gotten rid of these injustices centuries ago if rich, white men hadn't gotten in the way. But let's not look back at some idealized past that, in the end, didn't exist and yearn for a return to it.

I have no desire to lose my right to vote, thank you very much.

6 comments:

Captain Travis said...

Hmmm. Freedom is always relative. It cannot be absolute, because at least SOME government restriction is required to keep some individuals from violating the freedoms of others...in other words, anarchy (ideally, the most free form of government, i.e. none at all) would quickly descend into feudalism.

So the question becomes, what freedoms are the most important to defend? What freedoms do we need to guarantee exist and what obligations are required to protect those freedoms?

Government regulation is not inherently evil...it becomes evil or burdensome based the specifics of what it does. This is something citizens can and should have a lively debate about. It is in the interest of the government (i.e. the people) to regulate the medical profession so that it does not randomly hurt people. Would reasonable enforced medical ethics restrict abortion? I think it would...

But back to 1776, under the circumstances of the American Revolution, "taxation without representation" was a rather meager justification for war, since the English colonies had the most freedoms of about anyone in the world and much lighter taxes than England itself, ESPECIALLY when you consider that many of the complaints were coming from slave owners.

But I think when British troops marched on Lexington and Concord to seize the militia weapons there, depriving ordinary citizens of reasonable self-defense, that constituted a bona fide justification for war. The British government did not have the right to deny its citizens self-defense...that was an abuse of their power...IMHO.

Kyla Denae said...

To copy/paste what I said on Facebook, cos I can do that:

There definitely hasn't ever been a state of utter, anarchistic freedom in the US--or anywhere--and I doubt there ever will be. In many ways, I think that's a good thing, because I quite like having some governmental resources that allow me to, say, get justice when somebody comes and steals my laptop from me. (I'm speaking of 'justice' outside me getting a gun and/or baseball bat and pursuing that jerk to the ends of the earth, of course, since that would be vigilante justice and not exactly the best solution for the problem of bloated law enforcement agencies.)

This post was directed more towards those who believe in some kind of mythical "These United States", where wrongs were always righted and people could always get justice and the government never interfered in people's business and everybody lived in harmony because they were ~free. This view of history is ignoring the many abuses of power that went on even during the founders' era (Alien and Sedition Acts, the Monroe Doctrine, Manifest Destiny, reservations, slavery, Jim Crow, all of these things that were things), and continue to this day. The American government, as an institution, was never so beautifully libertarian as many right-wingers, or even left-wingers, would like us all to believe. So.

Captain Travis said...

Here's to being redundant. Yeah, I saw your Facebook comment after I wrote what I did to the blog...and realized your response there replied to what I said as much as to the FB comments...but I let my words stand anyway. So here's to being redundant...

Tragedy101 said...

Slavery is not holding someone against their will, as you stated in your post. Slavery is the possession of a human as property. That being said, it is not necessarily against that person's will.

In fact I am not sure any of us can ever not be slaves. But I can choose whom to be a slave to, and for me that is Christ Jesus, my Savior, God, and King.

This land is where Christians flee to avoid persecution and have done so for four hundred years. There is no country in our world, more protective of Christians worshipping as their conscience dictates, nor has there ever been.

Don't fret, that will change.

Jonathan Paul said...

Why does everyone single out America for holding slaves? Oh, is it because they were black, and it's politically incorrect? Ever heard of the Roman Empire? There were more slaves (many of them white and other races) than freedmen by and large. Same with Egypt, back when the Israelites were held in captivity. They weren't black either.

Tragedy101 makes a very good point. Everyone in this world is a slave to something, ultimately either the One True God, the devil, or man. True freedom, in this world, cannot exist but by enslaving oneself to God (one of the definitions in the Merriam-Webster dictionary for the word 'slave' is: "one that is completely subservient to a dominating influence"), thus freeing oneself from that other, horrible, slavery.

I strongly object to your idea of "equal rights". Homosexual marriage is against God's Law, a higher law than ever man's government can pass, so regardless of the degeneration of morality, it will never be Lawful. Same with abortion. How does "make the best choices for themselves" make murder lawful, pray tell? What if I just decide the best choice for me is to not have to look at anyone on my block any longer, so I say they all need to be nuked. Suddenly lawful? I think not.

In conclusion, there is, has been, and always will be (until Christ's return) corruption among men, and, as such, there will never be a utopian society in this world. I warn you: do not so lightly throw aside our heritage in this country. If America falls, the world falls, to a great extent, as has been said by many, many people in other countries. They know what we have/had, and if we throw that to the wind, we've already lost this fight.

Kyla Denae said...

To both of you, I think that we're probably closer to agreeing than you think. Life is full of things that keep us from living in a truly anarchistic world, and that's good. Ultimately, of course, there's God, directing our lives and making sure we don't, you know, fly apart into individual pieces of atoms. Along with that, there is a supreme law that is held by God, and is overseen by him.

I think the danger comes when we, as finite people, try to enforce that law upon others through force here on earth. It's that whole "pluck out the beam in your own eye before you pluck out the mote in your brother's eye" thing. Yes, Jonathan, homosexuality is against God's law. But I am not God. I am a broken, hurting sinner who lies and cheats and gets angry, and since "if a man offends in one point, he is guilty of all", I'm just as bad as Adolf Hitler, if we're going to go about enforcing God's law upon all of humanity here on Earth, I'd best just lock myself up cos I'm a ticking time bomb. That, in a nutshell, is my belief about moral legislation. And ultimately, I think if you worry too much about what other people do in their bedrooms, you're verging on perversion there. It is a shame to even speak of that which is done of them in secret, after all. I honestly just flat don't care what people do in their bedrooms. I'll tell them that men are sinners, that God has made a way for them to be free of it, and let their bedroom stay between them and their conscience. It's none of my business.

Anyway. Like I explained to Travis, I understand that America was founded upon principles that were better than a lot of other founding principles. I understand that lots of other countries throughout history have done some pretty horrible things (but lol, if all the kids on the block jump off a bridge, are you going to? i mean let's be adults and stop comparing ourselves to others because, after all, "comparing themselves among themselves, they are not wise"). But this post was directed more towards those who adamantly insist that America had some kind of halcyon glory days when we were right with God completely, and everything was rosy, and that's simply not true. If we're going to be completely technical, the very first seeds of our country were planted amid the slaughter of indigenous peoples, whether intentionally or not. The only reason America as a country still exists is because land was literally stolen by force from a group of people who had lived here for centuries, people who treated it a whole heck of a lot better than we have. Regardless of the perceived "Manifest Destiny", or how "evil" the native Americans be--"it must needs be that offenses come, but woe be to him by whom they come."

And I'd be wary of tying America so closely to the fate of The World At Large. We weren't here for a long time, and since South Korea is, you know, more of a "Christian" nation than we are right about now, if we judge by numbers and percentages of missionaries sent out and churches planted...well, I really don't think the world would be all that bad off without our constant drone strikes and belligerent playground bully ways.