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Don’t let fireworks obscure the real meaning of Independence Day

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NOTE: Following is a reprint of what I wrote for July 4 in 2007 and reprinted in 2008-10:

Whenever I look around on July 4, the scene is long on fireworks, beer, and merrymaking, and too short on discussion of what Independence Day is all about.

The Declaration of Independence was hardly signed by a bunch of pacifists. The signers must have realized that the bloodshed among the warring sides would lengthen and intensify with the signing of the Declaration of Independence, and it did. Violence begets violence, and the rampant violence that led to Britain’s surrender did not take place in a vacuum. Instead, it has fed into all subsequent American wars and smaller military actions. The United States’ repeated victories in wars (and the Vietnam War probably would not have dragged on so long were it not to become America’s first war defeat) likely has made the United States all the more militaristic and cocksure militarily. 

By now, the United States government thrives on control backed by force, the threat of force, and punishment, not only through military might, but also through an overgrown and overbearing criminal "justice" system of police, laws, money, prosecutors, courts, and prisons;  an overgrown national security system that leaves us little privacy, security, or sufficient liberty; and an overgrown spying and "intelligence" system.

Fortunately, a strong movement continues in favor of civil liberties and government by the governed rather than the reverse. The movement includes the American Civil Liberties Union, fearless and skilled criminal defense and Constitutional lawyers, and the drug legalization movement.

July 4 is meaningless without an ongoing struggle for civil liberties. Now is the time to join that struggle.