Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Independence Day

Note: Due to my own stupidity, this was scheduled for posting on July 4 for obvious reasons. I hope everyone had a wonderful independence day.

It has been remarked that the Fourth of July is a rather odd day to commemorate the birth of the United States of America. It is a remembrance not of some final battle that ended a war, nor the signing of a treaty, nor the establishment of some new government. It commemorates the signing of a declaration, in which the founders put forth an argument that seems very foreign to our modern ears.

The signing of the Declaration of Independence came against a very uncertain future to say the least. The War for Independence had gone on for little over a year since the days of Lexington and Concord. The British Empire was the finest fighting force in the world. The colonies were outmatched in virtually every military category. Defeat was all but certain when looked at on paper.

I have always found it philosophically poignant that July 4 is "America's birthday." It is the moment when a collection of leaders of the colonies declared the following:

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.
These men declared that life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness are rights given to Man by their Creator. These rights exist regardless of the opinion of a person or a government. They are intrinsic to who we are as human beings. This point cannot be overstated. It is a bold statement that declares that no person, persons, or power or authority is the source of these rights. And that no power can dictate, abridge, or revoke those rights that are intrinsic to Man by virtue of being created by God.

Because of this I become fairly depressed when I read pieces like Mark Steyn's piece (I may have to give him a break because he is Canadian), or the homily I heard at Mass. Both the article and the homily lament the state of America, and the central theme is the loss of freedom. I cringe at this assertion for one reason. By lamenting that the government "takes away our freedom" is to imply that the freedom comes from the government in the first place. It buys into the very philosophy that compelled the New York legislature to legalize the fiction of "gay marriage." That the government has the ability to legislate reality and define that which is most fundamental to Man.

The Declaration of Independence was a bold statement in its day. It is even more remarkable today given modern views of "objective truth." For our founders stated that there is such a thing as objective truth and that our founders stated:

And for the support of this Declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of Divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes, and our sacred Honor.
To risk everything for these foundational truths in the darkest hour of uncertainty shows the power of conviction.

In that respect July 4 is an invitation to remember this foundational truth. Truth is true, regardless of what we believe or what our earthly powers say. We do not shape reality. Reality simply is. Even if we abandon truth or the powers that be impose a false reality, it is still there. All of our attempts to shape and define reality to suit our own interests are for naught. Truth abides. Freedom abides. The powers of this world cannot take that which does not belong to them or be redefined by our efforts. They did not come from us. That above all else is a great hope.

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