Thursday, July 9, 2009

Hillside History Lesson

With acknowledgment to M. Stanton Evans and in submission to the 07/03/09 Friday Challenge.

As the hot July sun sank below the horizon, three figures searched for the perfect spot on the immense hillside to celebrate the Fourth in their family’s own peculiar manner. “We’re running out of time,” announced Lauren, the smallest, but also the eldest and mother of the other two. “I want a clear view of the beginning of your dad’s show.”

“It’s not like it’s anything we haven’t seen before, Mom,” replied her daughter, Amy. At seventeen she was already taller than her mother and more athletically built. She tossed her head to shake off the gnats buzzing in her face, sending her long pony-tail swishing back and forth. She looked up as her younger brother, T, came bounding up, his curly locks bouncing with each step.

“I’ve found the perfect spot,” he exclaimed, his face shining. T had turned fifteen the month before, and though adolescence had sharpened his features, he still looked more like thirteen. “Follow me!”

A few moments later the three of them were lying on the hillside, casually watching the townscape below.

When in the Course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature's God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.

“So,” spoke Lauren, glancing at her children, “which of you two can tell me the significance and history of this date?”

“It’s the…um, two hundred and sixty-third anniversary of the signing of the Declaration of Independence,” answered T.

“Actually, it wasn’t signed until about a month later, but it was adopted by Congress on the Fourth of July,” corrected Amy.

“Yeah, yeah, nit-pick the meaningless details,” muttered her brother.

“Okay, then, forgetting the details,” smiled their mother, “why don’t y’all give me a rundown on the theme of freedom leading through the Declaration to today?”

Amy raised an eyebrow at her mother. “Geez, Mom, do we gotta do this now?”

“The moment’s meaningless if you can’t tell me how we got here,” Lauren answered.

“How detailed are we talking?” T asked, one hand idly picking at the grass on the ground next to him.

“Oh, I think the nature of the evening warrants a simple synopsis,” replied his mother. “Just hit the highlights, starting with the source of liberty.”

“I always thought that was Uncle Jon and Aunt Mary,” joked T in reference to his cousin Libby. His mother and sister laughed, their eyes sparkling like the stars in the darkening dusk above.

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.

“Okay,” smirked Amy, “then I suppose I’ll start it off by saying the notion of free governments was born and nourished in the Middle Ages, made possible by the concept of a law above even the kings as put forth by Christianity—at that time expressed through the Catholic Church.”

“Right,” Lauren nodded, “but a philosophy and a practical output are two different things. What restricted the power of the kings, aside from the Church?”

“It always comes down to the money,” declared T with all the hardened certainty of a young teenage boy. “The feudal system meant that each baron had the means of defending his property, and this decentralized power system meant the kings in Britain had to seek the lords’ consent to levy taxes.”

“As solidified in the Magna Carta after the squabble with King John,” nodded Amy. “A great poster document for British constitutionalism. So when the king wanted to get money, he’d have to call together the barons and ask permission, and they’d always demand guarantees and safeguards of rights in exchange for the taxes. Hey, is that soda?!”

“In self-cooling cans,” grinned her mother in reply. She tossed one to each of her children. T cheered at the rare treat. Thrice the soothing sound of depressurization cut into the symphony of chirping insects, and to the three on the hillside the heavy twilight heat lifted lightly away as they drank the refreshingly cold beverages.

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.

“Okay, so,” began T after a long draught on his Coke, “the essence of British constitutionalism was that no individual or group could hold unchecked power over others. Even the king derived his authority and ability to levy taxes from the consent of his subjects.”

“Not that kings liked that,” interjected Amy. “And the Renaissance harkened them back to the days of Rome when ‘whatever pleases the king has the force of law.’ So that’s how you get issues like Charles I, but the Brits kept managing to conserve their tradition of freedom—like the Petition of Right in 1628 they made King Charles sign.”

“And around that time you had the burgeoning middle class that the king wanted to tax,” T broke back in, “so you had the development of the House of Commons and the widespread debate of limiting tyrannical power with representative government.”

“And people from that era are the ones who settled in the American colonies,” continued Amy. “And I’d even—”

Amy’s words caught in her throat as all three were nearly blinded by the first burst of light. A few moments later the sound of the charge—more felt than heard—swept over them. Lauren couldn’t help but reminisce of the fireworks displays she had seen as a young woman as she watched the subsequent flashes of light dance across the faces of her two teenage children.

Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shewn, that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed.

“So what caused the Founding Fathers to declare independence from the nation that had birthed free government?” asked Lauren during a lull in the explosive bursts of fire and light.

“Each of the colonies was established with a charter signed to the British Crown,” answered T. “They conducted their own legislatures and levied their own taxes. So when Parliament left the British tradition and began wielding supreme authority in England and tried to exert that authority over the colonies, they rebelled.”

He paused as a loud boom arrested his attention, green and orange lighting up the night sky.

“The colonies rebelled, all of a sudden, just like that?” their mom pressed.

“Nah,” drawled T. “Parliament did all sorts of stuff and the Americans kept seeking solutions, patient despite three major tax bills, draconian restraints on trade, cases being tried without juries, and the king suspending the colonial legislatures. They didn’t even officially rebel until the Brits started sending troops to hold down possible insurrections.”

“But then,” said Amy, continuing her brother’s thought, “after war broke out, they finally realized that the only way they would be able to preserve their traditional and valued system of free government was separation from the radical authoritarian British Parliament, to whom they never had any contractual obligation in the first place!”

A series of pops continued for so long that it made T grin at his sister. “That guy’s store of munitions for the day must be as long as my arm.”

But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security.

T gathered up the empty cans, crushed them, and put the aluminum in his rucksack, continuing his recitation of history the whole while. “Then in 1787 you get the United States of America. All goes well until the federal government, ever-consolidating its power, particularly in the twentieth century, starts ignoring the Constitution, levying all sorts of taxes, and behaving like a supreme authority—just like eighteenth century’s British Parliament!”

“So then you get people like Grand-Dad,” nodded Amy, “who worked hard in politics to restore the US to its British constitutionalist roots. But by that time, the nation was split, because enough people had been miseducated as to where freedom came from. About forty percent wanted to see the nation ‘progress’ into a new form of statist government, and they weren’t up for returning to the old traditions of limited government.”

She paused at a series of bright flashes and bangs on the near side of the town. These were smaller than the much more massive pyrotechnics display they had watched earlier. Amy’s speech slowed as she tried to pick out through the distance and the dark the individuals responsible for the new ruckus. “Then…the statists enacted several radical changes at the beginning of the millennium, ignoring the people’s protests and disapproval. On July 4, 2015, the People’s Convention declared Washington, D.C., empty of power much in the same way the British once declared the throne of King James II vacant. Fortunately, the military was favorable to the dissidents, so violence was mostly limited to riots scattered across the nation. Because half the nation still favored the statist regime.”

“So on July 4, 2016,” concluded her brother, “The Separation of States was signed in order to allow both peoples to from their own government, with those dedicated to constitutionalism and limited government making up the newly-formed Independent States of America.” He frowned for a moment. “The major fireworks have been over for a while now; Dad should have joined back up with us by now.”

Flashes and pops and bangs clamored up from the town below.

We must, therefore, acquiesce in the necessity, which denounces our Separation, and hold them, as we hold the rest of mankind, Enemies in War, in Peace Friends.

Lauren pulled herself up from the ground, drawing her diminutive but lithe body into a crouch such that at a distance she would be indifferentiable from a rock on the hill. “And after the Separation of States?” she asked, hoping the question would distract her son from his concerns regarding her husbands whereabouts.

“After that,” Amy responded distractedly, her eyes staring intently into the gloom below, “the ISA and the USA lived in relative peace, though a lot of ire was directed at both nations because the separation ultimately defaulted on the loans the US had borrowed from the world, sparking off a depression and worldwide famine even bigger than what they had just come out of. About this time much of Europe fell to Islam, and the religion was flourishing in the USA, which…” She trailed off.

“Which brings us to today,” her brother finished for her. “Where we’ve got two ISAs, the Muslims having taken over those poor statist bastards and declared jihad on us free Independents.”

“A perfect summary! Good job, both of you,” Lauren commended her children. She was proud of their discipline in educating themselves and remembering the lessons of history she and her husband had been careful to teach them. She flinched at a sudden series of crackling pops at the bottom of the hill. “Do either of you see your father down there?” she asked, now worried herself.

“Got ‘im,” murmured Amy, looking through her scope. “Uh oh, a couple mooeys on his tail. Just a sec.” She took careful aim and then fired a shot with her long-range rifle.

“Nice one!” remarked T, looking through his own sights. By the time he had finished the exclamatory praise, his sister had already killed the second mujahid on her father’s tail.

Shortly, the family was rejoined by their dad, whom the enemy had taken to calling al-Qat’ Tariq—the Bandit. He squeezed his son, Texas, on the arm in greeting. He smiled and kissed his daughter, America, on the forehead. Then he caught Lauren up in his arms and gave her a short but passionate kiss. “A heck of a way to celebrate the Fourth of July, eh, gang? Now let’s get up and over the hill before the jihadis figure out which way the guy who blew up their weapon cache went.”

The four fled over the hill into the darkness of night. Behind them, the Islamic munitions town burned, hot flames glowing like the torch of Liberty.

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.

1 comment:

  1. Would that all American youth understood the history of Liberty this well!