Today is not the 4th of July I had envisioned.
I love the 4th of July---its celebration of all the things I love about this country, in particular, its recognition of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.
The past several years I have invested much time and energy studying these core individual rights and attempting to defend them from the increasing onslaught of attacks. Instead of protecting these rights, our government's actions are primarily intent on eroding the distinctions between private individual rights and public claims to the life, labor and property of its citizens. Government is usurping more and more of our private lives through regulation, taxes, welfare and entitlement programs, and "public options." Having taken over banks and auto companies, it is now poised to control the health and energy industries. What will be next?
The past few weeks, I have been focused more on the pursuit of my own personal happiness: listening to my son's tales of his recent trip to Italy, accompanying my husband to 2 concerts (first Eric Clapton/Steve Winwood, and just last night, Yes.) The bulk of my time however has been helping my in-laws deal with the diagnosis and treatment of a recently discovered cancer. There is nothing like a life-threatening illness to force the clarification of one's priorities.
So the past few weeks my time has been much more focused on my less abstract and more immediate values. This has heightened for me the toll the state of our government takes on the quality of my life. Instead of being free to live my life according to my own personal values, a substantial part of my life must be spent fending off those who would deprive me of my liberty and property. In a freer world, with a greater understanding and recognition of the right of each individual to his own life and only his own life, much less time would be spent on self-defense, and more more time would be available to the pursuit of positive values.
This is not to belittle how much better off I am than many who live in more oppressive countries, or who lived in more oppressive times. Also, I recognize that one can never completely rest in defending one's rights. It is simply that these past few weeks I have been made so much more concretely aware that time spent defending my rights is time I am unable to spend with my family, and vice versa.
The more the ideals of the Declaration of Independence are implemented in our daily lives, the more we can truly live. It is not just a declaration of independence and of individual rights. It is a Declaration for Living.