When I was a boy, one of my favorite holidays was Independence Day. I was an enthusiastic student of the War for Independence. My favorite book was the How and Why Wonder Book of the American Revolution by Felix Sutton. I spent a lot of my childhood reading about the colonial era, the lives of people like Sam Adams, Paul Revere, Thomas Jefferson, Patrick Henry, and George Washington. I learned all about our American forefathers’ struggle for liberty against a king who merely treated them as revenue-generating pawns. I was nine years old when the US celebrated its bicentennial and my mother wallpapered my room with a red, white, and blue colonial American themed paper and I had various prints of famous revolutionary war scenes hanging on the walls. I looked forward every year to the day celebrating the signing of the Declaration of Independence.
Over the years, alas, my enthusiasm became dampened so that now, if I am exposed to any mainstream media celebrations of Independence Day, I do not feel the joy I once did. Instead I feel more like Charlie Brown at the beginning of A Charlie Brown Christmas. Remember in that childhood classic how, when Christmas approaches, Charlie Brown tells Linus that he knows he should be happy, but instead he always ends up feeling depressed. I increasingly get the same feeling as people gear up for 4th of July celebrations.
Now, much older and perhaps wiser, when I hear the popular media gushing about our freedoms, the Declaration of Independence, the Liberty Bell, Celebrate America concerts, and all the rest on the Fourth of July, instead of being happy, I feel a tinge of sadness. I like celebrating the Fourth of July by, say, gathering with friends, teaching my children about the Founding Fathers, reading the Declaration, and watching fireworks, but when I think about where we started and what we have become, like Charlie Brown I end up melancholy. This is because the politicians and the media talking heads clearly have no idea what they are talking about. Most seem to not even know what liberty really is. The only politician at the national level who spoke about freedom and the Constitution with actual conviction was Ron Paul and they laughed him off the stage. Instead, popular journalists and pundits try to make us believe that we are free because we are allowed to have other people vote away our liberties.
This post was published at Ludwig von Mises Institute on July 4, 2016.