On July 2nd, 1776, the Declaration of Independence was signed, officially breaking ties between the American colonies and the British empire. It is the idealism behind this document and American independence that folks across the United States will celebrate this 4th of July. The 4th is the central holiday of the summer season and liberty is the theme of the day. After signing the Declaration, John Adams, in a famous letter to his wife Abigal, penned his thoughts on the new holiday:
“I am apt to believe that it will be celebrated, by succeeding Generations, as the great anniversary Festival … It ought to be solemnized with Pomp and Parade, with Shews, Games, Sports, Guns, Bells, Bonfires and Illuminations from one End of this Continent to the other from this Time forward forever more.”
Of course, Adams was correct. There are 4th of July celebrations all across the country — fully equipped with the activities mentioned in his letter plus tons of food and fireworks. Today, however, there is an urgent need for collective reflection on the all too important idea behind the holiday — liberty — and its unique history in the country.
A society rooted in liberty would be defined simply as (to borrow from Merriam Webster) one “free from oppressive restrictions imposed by authority on one’s way of life, behavior or political views.” We in the United States enjoy degrees of freedom, but said freedom is not absolute. Furthermore, there currently exist aggressive barriers to achieving a free society (such as structural poverty and racism to name only a couple) and such barriers are institutionalized, protected and upheld by state power.
Social power, however, works in opposition to state power. Throughout our collective history, liberty has been achieved by people either working around power structures or directly engaging them, forcing change. Liberty is not the product of legislation, but the sum of human action. It is important to remember that patriotism is not allegiance to government or obedience to law, but rather defending and advocating moral positions in spite of the power structure.
There is something classically American about questioning authority and having distrust of large centralized governments. This tradition is experiencing a needed resurgence as of late, and along with it, so too are libertarian politics.
Read more via Center for a Stateless Society » American Anarchism.