Freedom or tyranny

July 4, 2020

Happy Independence Day!

It’s a good time to celebrate our Declaration of Independence from Great Britain and ole King George the Third in 1776. Debates over freedom versus safety abound these days. In some discussions you even hear the word “tyranny.”

Lest we forget, when we send the fireworks up on Independence Day, we’re celebrating the “declaration” of our country’s freedom, not our victory in the American Revolution. That came six bloody years later.

The decision for those brave souls to make that Declaration and face the firepower and armies of the most powerful empire in the world came about from the uniquely American character that developed from the American colonies’ isolation from the Old World and the freedom that “wilderness” existence produced as each colony developed its own pattern of self-government.

By 1776, that yearning for freedom had grown to the point, after new taxes and repressive acts from the British Parliament, that our Founding Fathers were willing to fight to defend the independent lives they had built for themselves in America.

British statesman and member of Parliament Edmund Burke may have described the American attitude best when he observed in 1775:

            “In other countries, the people, more simple, and of a less mercurial cast, judge of all ill principle in government only by an actual grievance; here they anticipate the evil, and judge of the pressure of the grievance by the badness of the principle.  They foresee misgovernment at a distance; and snuff the approach of tyranny in every tainted breeze.”

Burke was sympathetic to American grievances, listened to their frustrations over taxation and religious toleration, and hoped and advocated for reconciliation with the colonies. It’s not a perspective we typically hear on July 4th.   

What he described as that desire to eradicate suspected tyranny was an American trait then. The interesting question is whether it still survives.

Here in North Carolina we have a strong heritage of independence. The desire for life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness written about in the Declaration of Independence is for many today is embodied in their ability to work and make enough money to raise their families in the job and career they have chosen.

When those in the hospitality, service and fitness industries see the freedom to pursue those goals stymied and abridged by a governor who listens about as well as King George III, they are feeling some part of the same frustrations American colonists felt in the 1760s and 1770s as the Stamp Act, the Sugar Act, the Townshend Acts, Coercive Acts and Tea Act weighted down their freedom.

So it’s a good time to reflect on our freedoms and take serious what we are willing to give up in the name of safety and security.

Are we willing to “foresee misgovernment at a distance; and snuff the approach of tyranny in every tainted breeze” as those brave souls did long ago?

We have a system of law and order and an electoral process that is not perfect, but has provided a way for us to protect our freedoms for over 200 years. When you see or hear fireworks tonight, we’re celebrating the American tradition to declare those freedoms.  Make a commitment to support law and order and vote your convictions this fall.