July 4, 2013
It has often been said that if voting actually changed things, it would be illegal. In much the same sense it could be said that if the genuine meaning of the event commemorated on the Fourth of July were to become widely known, our rulers would respond by criminalizing the celebration and the document that should be at its center.
This isn’t a hypothetical proposition. Around the turn of the 20th Century it was common for “Wobblies” — radical activists belonging to the Industrial Workers of the World, a schismatic socialist sect — to be arrested for reading the Declaration of Independence in public.
The inflammatory, seditious content of that document was largely unknown to the public even then, and when tranquil middle-class Americans were confronted with unsettling assertions like the claim that governments derive “their just powers from the consent of the governed” and that “whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it,” many of them assumed their ears were being assaulted by the rhetoric of foreign subversives.
A few years later, after the regime of the unutterably evil Woodrow Wilson had maneuvered the United States into a European war on the side of Great Britain — still regarded with understandable suspicion by the Middle Americans expected to provide the coffin-stuffers for the conflict — public recital of the Declaration was ruled a violation of the Espionage Act. At least one man was sent to prison for the supposed crime of reading aloud from Jefferson’s document.
In his war message to Congress on April 2, 1917, the detestable Wilson demanded of Americans nothing less than complete and perfect uniformity of opinion and behavior. He also deputized Americans to assist the state in “rebuking and restraining the few who may be of a different mind and purpose” than that ordained by his government.
“If there should be disloyalty,” Wilson promised, “it will be dealt with with a firm hand of stern repression; but, if it lifts its head at all, it will lift it only here and there and without countenance except from a lawless and malignant few.”
Less than a century and a half had elapsed since a “lawless and malignant few” had gathered in Philadelphia to certify their disloyalty to the King of England — or, more properly put, a small group of principled men who understood government’s subordinate role in human affairs assembled to withdraw their consent to be governed by that man and his minions.
The Declaration articulated some indispensable truths. The first is the understanding that individual liberty is a gift of God, and the powers of government are contingent and revocable. A man can live without government, but he cannot live, as a man, without liberty. Second, the single greatest enemy to individual liberty is the government claiming the right to rule that individual.
The third, and most troublesome, of those truths is this: There is an inherent right to rebel against the supposed authority of any government that becomes “destructive” of the rights invested in the individual by God. That right, like all others, inheres in the individual. But it can be exercised collectively in the form of principled, violent insurrection when such action is justified. Most of the rest of the Declaration consists of a legal brief justifying the insurrection already underway in the British Colonies, and the decision to sever the political connection between those polities and the British Empire.
It’s hardly surprising that the Wilson regime effectively criminalized the Declaration: Like collectivists of all ages, Wilson assumed that man, who was created for the state, should be pitifully grateful for whatever transient “liberties” he was given by the state, and should be prepared to sacrifice everything on behalf of the state.
“It is not an army we must shape and train for war, it is a nation,” Wilson declared, as he centralized the economy, orchestrated a frenzy of war hatred against Germany, and moved to impose conscription. His Vice President, Thomas Marshall, urged that citizenship be formally revoked for anyone found to be “not heartily in support of the Government in this crisis.”
Bernard Baruch, chairman of the War Industries Board and de facto commissar of the economy, explained the logic of Wilson’s war regime in admirably frank terms: “Every man’s life is at the call of the nation and so must be every man’s property…. The state is all; the individual is of importance only as he contributes to the welfare of the state. His property is his only as the state does not need it. He must hold his life and possessions at the call of the state.”
Just as every man’s life was considered property of the state, so were every man’s offspring. This was made clear by the demented Theodore Roosevelt: “Any man who says, `I didn’t raise my son to be a soldier’ isn’t fit for citizenship. That statement is on the same moral level with saying, `I didn’t raise my girl to be a mother.’”
Killing and dying on behalf of the state — the congealed essence of lethal violence — was thus defined as a moral exercise as exalted as bringing life into the world. Or, as Bill Kauffman observes in his invaluable new book Ain’t My America, to WWI-era collectivists like Wilson and Roosevelt, “Mothers were brood sows. Sons were herded into the abattoir.”
Vaulting over the blood-stained decades that followed Wilson’s administration, we find that today’s adherents of the cult of the nation-state aren’t content to send just their sons to the slaughterhouse; many of them are dispatching their daughters as well.
This was memorably dramatized during a recent “Military Appreciation Sunday” service at the Bell Shoals Baptist Church in Brandon, Florida (a video of which was very generously provided to me by a friend).
The service featured Lt. Col. Steve Russell, who commanded the troops who extracted quondam subcontractor for Washington Saddam Hussein from his “spider hole.” The proceedings began with brief remarks — laden with pious poses and orotund vowels — by the late Pastor Forrest Pollock, in which he gave a detailed recital of the evils perpetrated by Saddam while he was on Washington’s payroll — a remarkable exercise in mote-obsession and beam-ignoring. He then urged attendees to pay heed to a nauseating video presentation offered by Russell’s GOP-jingo PAC, Veterans for Victory.
The video first depicts a father in his 30s rising early in the morning to kiss his wife and son, then depart, clothed in the habiliments of the Empire’s contract killers, to murder people in a distant land who have done our country no harm. Wretched as that spectacle is — almost unbearably so, given that it is set to the “tune” of a soul-less corporate simulacrum of country pop — it is the second vignette that is genuinely abhorrent.
The scene begins with a middle-aged couple walking out of their home, each of them flanking a daughter dressed in a BDU. Their little girl, obviously, wasn’t raised to be a “brood sow”; she’s a fully realized member of the killer caste.
“Somewhere a man and woman … are waving their girl goodbye; for gone are the days of pigtails and curls and candle-light lullabies,” keens the “singer” in the video’s soundtrack as the couple and daughter hold hands in prayer. “If they had their way, she’d stay young forever and never be far from home. But freedom has drawn her heart to danger’s shore — and for freedom they’ll let her go.”
Ah, yes: “Freedom” — defined here as a gift conferred by the Almighty State on some, through the expropriation and death of others.
The video ends with the wife and son being visited by a Marine chaplain who confers on them a folded piece of cloth in exchange for their living, breathing, irreplaceable husband and father. His life was extinguished carrying out what George W. Bush, in a voice-over, describes as “the highest calling of history” — that is, enforcing the divine will of the State through lethal violence.
Mr. Bush, no stranger to blasphemy, insists that their mission resonates with “the words of the prophet Isaiah,” as recorded in chapter 61:1 (“The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me; because the Lord hath anointed me … to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to them that are bound”).
Christians who genuinely understand that passage recognize that it foretold how Jesus Christ would liberate from the captivity of sin those who accept Him as Savior. As the High Priest of Washington’s murderous Civil Religion, Bush follows in the jackboot-steps of Lincoln, Wilson, and their damnable ilk in depicting the State as savior.
Throughout the United States today, Americans will celebrate the sanguinary majesty of that State and its pitiless apparatus of mass murder and repression. We should instead be celebrating the divine gift of individual liberty that was the focus of the “lawless and malignant” insurrectionists who gathered in Philadelphia — disreputable men like Jefferson, Adams, Franklin, and Hancock — to shout their defiance at a previous globe-straddling empire.
How different would our society be today if, instead of the Pledge of Allegiance, schoolchildren (in private or home schools, of course) were required, each day, to read or recite this paragraph from the Declaration of Independence:
“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 of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness.”
What if, instead of starting every day being marinated in the language of submission (to pledge “allegiance,” after all, is to proclaim one’s status as a vassal bound in service to a feudal lord, or “liege”), youngsters were taught, on a daily basis, the principles of self-responsibility, individual liberty, and principled rebellion? As I stated earlier, if this kind of thing were to become common, our rulers would simply criminalize the Declaration. They’ve done it before, and they would be more than happy to do so permanently.
The sobering truth is that, due to the cultivated docility of the American populace, Jefferson’s document, much like the Constitution created eleven years later, poses no threat to the designs of our rulers.