Here’s how it’s supposed to work.
There are three parts of our government: the legislative branch, the executive branch and the judicial branch. Each one is intended to keep the other two in check and permit change only when all three are in agreement.
The Congress can make new laws. The President can veto the Congress. The Congress can, in turn, overrule the President’s veto. The Supreme Court can rule the law unconstitutional. That constitution can be amended but, as evidenced by how long it takes to do so, that is a very rare event.
Change, yes, but only very slowly. This is a key and intentional feature of our Constitution, the goal of which is to make it hard for the government to infringe upon our rights against our will.
And by preserving our rights, by hamstringing the elected government so it can only move slowly, the constitution gives us time to assert our wishes. We have time to elect different representatives who will do as we wish. We have time to overturn laws that infringe upon our rights.
This intentional and forced slow-to-change nature of our Constitution works to preserve our independence. Our founding fathers were amazingly wise.
Change, yes, but only slowly, with much debate and discussion, and with considerable recourse.
Independence ultimately also means we don’t depend on our government. We take care of ourselves, our families, our neighboring community and, when necessary, our country. That was the goal of the settlers who came to this continent. They wished to express their lives in actions and words as they saw fit, to live, to flourish, to flounder and to die according to their own minds and hands.
And to ensure those rights, we hire amongst ourselves those to oversee our interactions as we go about our independent lives.
By any measure, the government depends on us, not vice versa. We elect them. We pay them. They represent us but only at our bidding or, in its absence, at our knowing acquiescence. Ours is a “representative democracy”. We rule through our representatives. They run the collective works while each of us runs our personal work.
The Continental Congress began as a coordinated resistance to British control. “Taxation without representation,” was a primary complaint in a long list that described how the British government had infringed upon the rights of its citizens in the colonies. And on this date in 1776, that Continental Congress signed what is known to most around the world as the Declaration of Independence.
And that’s what this day of the year is about, independence, yours and mine.
Nurture and display it and, when — not if but when — necessary, protect it. It is very precious and many are trying to take it away, both here and abroad.
Independence Day is about embracing, not just reflecting upon, your freedom.
What will you do today to demonstrate your Independence?