What Exactly Does Independence Mean?

For most Americans, the Fourth of July is thought of as a day to party and rest from work, but we rarely look at what the day represents. What exactly does independence mean from a political perspective? We tend to picture the events surrounding the American Revolution as a bunch of men sitting in a room discussing rebellion against King George III and glorious battles won by General George Washington. However, in reality, as is the case with many things, the story is much more complex.

First of all, we must understand the concept of independence. What Americans mean when they celebrate independence is that our founding fathers and those who supported the cause seceded from the British Empire. In other words, they rebelled and broke away from the existing governing structure and the entity in which they were previously dependent upon. Thomas Jefferson’s eloquent thesis (though the ideas were largely taken from John Locke, George Mason, Richard Henry Lee, and others) stated in the Declaration of Independence determined that the people should decide their fate when it comes to governance.

This could lead to discussions about two other events. The Donetsk and Luhansk secessionists in eastern Ukraine, where the people are largely Russian, fight for either a federation (stronger government at the local level instead of authority being dictated from the top down) or independence from Kiev altogether. Yet, the United States government of today does not support such a movement because it seemingly strengthens Russian interests.

Although this is very unpopular to talk about, the American Civil War was also fought on similar grounds. Despite the Confederate States of America being built around the culture and expansion of slavery, the primary purpose of the war was to coerce the South back into the Union, as stated by Abraham Lincoln himself (wars are rarely declared on governments just because they violate human rights, so the argument that the Civil War was fought to end slavery is false, and in fact, the Union permitted slavery in some border states in order to keep them from seceding). Slavery, of course, should never be condoned (and it was the major issue that led to secession), but the original principles in which the United States was founded were those where the states were sovereign and could secede from the Union whenever the people decided that that form of government no longer served their interests. The principle of secession has since become unacceptable in American society, except when July 4th rolls around or terrorist gangs attempt to take land from Bashar al-Assad. We make preposterous arguments about which states are allowed to secede or which rebels in faraway lands may leave their countries, but we fail to see how the American colonists illegally left the protections of their British rulers. The will of the people takes precedence over any established laws created by politicians.

If I have not caused you to turn away due to controversial statements, let us now move to the American Revolution. Prior to the American Revolution, the American colonies were largely self-governing, but at the same time, they were full of aristocracy that left many people marginalized (particularly slaves). After the global Seven Years’ War (the North American theater was known as the French and Indian War), Great Britain decided that since the American colonies benefited from the protection and innovation associated with the empire, they should have to take part in paying for the debt incurred by the war.

This led to the cycle of tax implementation, boycott, and repeal that many Americans should be familiar with from high school. At the time, there was little talk of the colonies becoming independent countries, and most colonists considered themselves British citizens and thought of those who spoke of independence as radicals. It was not until the Boston Tea Party where the idea of secession began to gain momentum. Because of the “terrorism” displayed by the members involved in the incident, Britain passed the Coercion Acts (known as the Intolerable Acts in the colonies), which effectively dissolved Massachusetts’ legislature and placed the colony under martial law. The outrage that ensued led to the First Continental Congress and subsequently the Second Continental Congress. The latter body bitterly debated whether or not the American colonies should continue its current course of utilizing diplomacy to persuade Parliament to back down from its tightening grip on the colonies.

However, John Adams and others believed that the time for diplomacy was over and that military action was needed to defend themselves from British aggression. They were opposed by John Dickinson and others who believed that a war with Britain would cause unnecessary bloodshed and would ultimately fail. The Congress managed to adopt the Massachusetts militia as an army led by George Washington, and roughly one year later, an unanimous decision (though just barely and with a lot of politics involved) was reached to issue the Declaration of Independence as the official statement for the independence of thirteen autonomous states united under a confederate government (the issue of independence was actually decided on July 2). The colonial representatives then became terrorists to the British crown, and anyone who supported the cause had to become ready to pay the ultimate sacrifice.

For seven more years, the United States military struggled against the most powerful nation at the time. There were major defeats and setbacks, but ultimately, the United States was able to establish itself as a new nation in the world and set the precedent for many other fledgling republics across the globe. The world of monarchies and oligarchies was replaced with that of rule by the many (or at least in theory).

The aristocratic society that had dominated for many years gradually began to slip away as less wealthy white males became allowed to vote. This was followed by the right of black males to become franchised, and later women joined this group. Then, in 2008, the unthinkable happened. A black man became president of the United States.

The United States did not become a country over night, nor did the freedoms that became associated with being American come into existence by people who sat silently. This Fourth of July, while you are watching fireworks or eating hamburgers from the grill, take some time to remember the sacrifices made by our founding fathers, the American military members who have been forced over the years to fight politicians’ wars, civil rights heroes (like Martin Luther King, Jr.) who fought for equal rights for blacks, and whistleblowers (like Edward Snowden) who have fought to keep the American public informed of wrongdoings committed by the federal government. The American story is too great to let it be ruined by politicians who only have their own interests at heart, and if people let the government get more and more involved in their lives, freedom will continue to disappear. Do not be afraid to speak your mind or criticize the government. That is exactly what our country was founded upon. Patriots are not sheep that blindly follow the politicians’ rod and staff to destruction. Thanks for reading, and have a happy Independence Day!

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Published on July 03, 2017 03:34
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