Most Americans Should be Ashamed to Celebrate the Fourth
By Vin Suprynowicz
Special to The Libertarian Enterprise
What an inconvenient holiday the Fourth of July has become.
Oh, so long as we stick to grilling hot dogs and hamburgs, hauling
the kids to the lake or the mountains, and winding up the day watching
the fireworks as the Boston Pops plays the 1812 -- written by a
subject of the czar to celebrate the defeat of our vital ally the
French -- we can usually manage to convince ourselves we still honor
the same values that made July 4, 1776, a date which rings in history.
Great Britain taxed the colonists at far lower rates than
Americans tolerate today -- and never dreamed of granting government
agents the power to search our private bank records to locate
"unreported income." Nor did the king's ministers ever attempt to
stack our juries by disqualifying any juror who refused to swear in
advance to "leave your conscience outside and enforce the law as the
judge explains it to you."
The king's ministers insisted the colonists were represented by
Members of Parliament who had never set foot on these shores. Today,
of course, our interests are "represented" by one of two millionaire
lawyers -- both members of the incumbent Republicrat Party -- among
whom we were privileged to "choose" last election day, men who for the
most part have lived in mansions and sent their kids to private
schools in the wealthy suburbs of the imperial capital, for decades.
Yet the colonists did rebel. It's hard to imagine, today, the
faith and courage of a few hundred frozen musketmen, setting off
across the darkened Delaware, gambling their lives and farms on the
chance they could engage and defeat the greatest land army in the
history of the known world, armed with only two palpable assets: one
irreplaceable man to lead them, and some flimsy newspaper reprints of
a parchment declaring: "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 -- That to secure these Rights, Governments
are instituted among men, deriving their just Powers from the Consent
of the Governed, that whenever any Form of Government becomes
destructive to these Ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or
abolish it ..."
Do we believe that, still?
Recently, President Clinton's then-Drug Czar, Lee Brown, told me
the role of government is to protect the people from dangers, such as
drugs. I corrected him, saying, "No, the role of government is to
protect our liberties."
"We'll just have to disagree on that," the president's appointee
The War for American Independence began over unregistered, untaxed
guns, when British forces attempted to seize arsenals of rifles,
powder and ball from the hands of ill-organized Patriot militias in
Lexington and Concord. American civilians shot and killed scores of
these government agents as they marched back to Boston. Are those
Minutemen still our heroes? Or do we now consider them "dangerous
terrorists" and "depraved government-haters"?
In "The Federalist" No. 46, James Madison told us we need have no
fear of any federal tyranny ever taking away our rights, arguing that
under his proposed Constitution "the ultimate authority ... resides in
the people alone," and predicting that any usurpation of powers not
specifically delegated would lead to "plans of resistance" and "appeal
to a trial of force."
Another prominent federalist, Noah Webster, wrote in 1787: "Before
a standing army can rule, the people must be disarmed; as they are in
almost every kingdom in Europe. The supreme power in America cannot
enforce unjust laws by the sword; because the whole body of the people
are armed, and constitute a force superior to any band of regular
troops that can be, on any pretence, raised in the United States."
Is this still true today? Or are those who arm themselves and
make contingency "plans of resistance" against government usurpations
instead branded "conspirators" and "terrorists," and ridiculously
associated with Timothy McVeigh (who was kicked out of the only
militia meeting he is ever known to have attended -- in Michigan --
and whose actions surely reflect more directly on the screening
process of the outfit that gave him his training in munitions -- the
United States Army.)
In Phoenix last week, an air conditioner repairman and former
Military Policeman named Chuck Knight was convicted by jurors -- some
tearful -- who said they "had no choice" under the judge's
instructions, on a single federal "conspiracy" count of associating
with others who owned automatic rifles on which they had failed to pay
a $200 "transfer tax" -- after a trial in which defense attorney Ivan
Abrams says he was forbidden to bring up the Second Amendment as a
Were the Viper Militia readying "plans of resistance," as
recommended by Mr. Madison? Would the Constitution ever have been
ratified, had Mr. Madison and his fellow federalists warned the
citizens that such non-violent preparations would get their weapons
seized, and land them in jail for decades?
Happy Fourth of July.
Vin Suprynowicz is the assistant editorial page editor of the Las
Vegas Review-Journal. Readers may contact him via e-mail at
firstname.lastname@example.org. The web site for the Suprynowicz column is at