For most of my life I probably would have rated the Fourth of July as my favorite holiday. The fireworks, the food, the Old Navy American t-shirts. Honestly, what was not to love?
But more importantly I loved the holiday because of the emotions it brought with it—pride and gratitude for being born in a country that believed in equality, justice, and individual merit. I would tear up at the sound of The Spangled Banner, I’d deck myself out in Old Glory gear, and I’d eagerly join in with any adults at the family gathering who’d let me talk about my political views—which at the time were pure nationalist dribble.
I was an odd kid, I’m aware.
I’m sure readers can imagine, then, the absolute dismay that a former kid like this felt when my career led me to politics and I discovered that not everyone had experienced America like this. And moreover, that our government had never actually practiced what it preached. It felt like losing my religion.
If a frog, or probably any other animal, is placed directly into boiling water it will of course jump out. But that’s not how you cook a frog. Instead, you place it in lukewarm water. The frog is comfortable, it likes water, and it swims about. As the water is slowly brought to a boil the frog will begin to cook until it is boiled alive, but it will be unaware. It becomes too late for it to recognize the point at which the water is not merely warm but has become deadly hot.
Americans are like such frogs. The mark has already been crossed, our human rights already begun to erode. And yet the vast majority are unaware. They continue to swim around in this melting pot of a country, bragging about how free they are, while they are actually being cooked alive.
The colonists who fled England had many issues with their homeland and the British monarchy that oversaw it. Chiefly among them were the taxes that were imposed on them, and more specifically, that taxes were imposed on them while they were not afforded adequate representation in the process. Thus came the slogan of the American Revolution, “no taxation without representation.”
If the colonists threw tea into the harbor for a tax of 3 cents on the pound though, imagine what they would do in the face of our modern system. An average income tax of 14 to 25 percent. Property taxes on houses, land, and cars that range in the thousands of dollars per year range. A sales tax of 6 to 10 percent on everything we purchase. And countless other business taxes, fees, fines, licenses, and certifications—all just to breathe air in this country.
The taxation rates on their own should be enough to cause an uprising. If 100% taxation of one’s salary is slavery, at what percentage point is it not?
Ironically, many people rant and rave about employment being slavery—as if agreeing to work for a certain amount that one is paid is not the exact opposite of slavery. Meanwhile, these same voices never seem to raise one octave at the amount our government forcibly takes from us. If one actually wants people to have a “living wage” then perhaps we ought to demand the government stop stealing so much from hardworking people while offering virtually nothing in return.
But on top of this injustice, the US government now takes this amount from us in taxes while offering no real representation. Americans are given a charade of a political system. No matter how much they tell you to “vote!” or “donate!” or “get involved” the dirty little secret is it will change nothing.
The two party system has rigged the books. There’s a reason you can’t vote your way out of the status quo and that’s because both Democrats and Republicans have written laws that block all hope of independent or third party candidates. Your ballot box is a lie, there are no real options.
Instead we’re given the illusion of options, and the majority of us either oscillate between the two, hoping this time things will be different. Or we give in to blind tribalism and the indoctrination of groupthink that allows individuals to believe their camp is somehow more moral and upright than the other.
In reality, the politicians in both parties are working for themselves and a select number of their connected, insider friends. They will always pick the military industrial system over American lives, corporate welfare over competition that would lower the cost of goods, and their pet projects over economic stability.
On top of this, our actual liberties—the “freedoms” that so many are convinced are the envy of the world—are all but gone. Free speech is under attack by both Democrats and Republicans. They persecute journalists, pressure private companies to censor the speech of citizens, and push laws empowering state bureaucrats to set content moderation practices.
Your Fourth Amendment right to privacy? Lol. Gone since 9/11, and don’t you dare try to confront the government on that fact. Just ask Edward Snowden.
The Fifth Amendment’s promise of due process, or the Sixth Amendment right to an attorney or jury trial? Millions of Americans who’ve been forced into plea deals would beg to differ.
The Tenth Amendment, which says all the powers not explicitly given to the federal government in the US Constitution should reside in the states. There’s so many federal laws no one even claims to have the actual count, but with an average of 600 new rules passed every session we beg to differ that this right still exists.
The long list of violations against the American people by our government could fill books, so I’ll stop there.
But all in all, I’m left questioning: what is there left to celebrate on the Fourth of July?
To this, many in my former blindly patriotic camp will claim that we still have it much better here than many other places. And to be sure, you don’t see people swimming with sharks to escape America like you find them doing to escape communist/socialist countries.
But the line shouldn’t be, ‘could things be worse?’ Of course they could.
The line is life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. The line is all men are created equal. The standard is that all men are “endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights.”
The mark has been crossed. It’s time to jump out of the pot.
So this Fourth of July, I don’t want to celebrate. I want to find a way to fight for the things I was promised this country stood for: individual liberty, free market capitalism, and a limited government.