Rebirth of Reason

Sense of Life

Independence Day is Renaissance Day
by Craig Ceely

"Three cheers for the red, white, and blue..." So begins the John Philips Sousa march, "The Stars and Stripes Forever," a staple of Independence Day observance. Like many others, I'll be flying the red, white, and blue from my own house this Independence Day.

What's it all about, though? What's the meaning of Independence Day? Why should it be celebrated?

Independence from Great Britain? Sorry, but at a remove of over two hundred years, my response to that is: Big deal. Their Union Jack is red, white, and blue, anyway. So are the flags of France, Russia, Serbia, Taiwan, Norway, the Czech Republic, Laos and even Cuba.

More: Britain--today as in 1776--isn't exactly a police state, we still recognize brotherly bonds with the Brits, and there's a lot held in common, politically and culturally, 'twixt the UK and the USA. And collectivism in both countries accelerates with little opposition--indeed, most Britons and most Americans are cheering it on.

With that in mind, I have a particular reason for flying the American flag this Independence Day. Particular and subversive: I want people (a good start would be people in the red, white, and blue countries) to ask about, to think about, to talk about, the moral meaning of independence. And to demand answers.

What's your answer? What is the moral meaning of independence?

John Locke wrote of the rights to life, liberty, and property; Thomas Jefferson, an American admirer, altered that formulation slightly, to read "life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness." Locke would have asserted that only through the exercise of property rights could happiness be pursued on this earth, and I think it's obvious that Jefferson agreed.

Ayn Rand wrote: "Independence is the recognition of the fact that yours is the responsibility of judgment and nothing can help you escape it--that no substitute can do your thinking, as no pinch-hitter can live your life--that the vilest form of self-abasement and self-destruction is the subordination of your mind to the mind of another, the acceptance of an authority over your brain, the acceptance of his assertions as facts, his say-so as truth, his edicts as middle-man between your consciousness and your existence."

Hey, we're getting somewhere. In fact, I think we've gotten pretty far: Locke tells us that we all enjoy certain rights; Jefferson agrees, and recasts the thought with a different emphasis. Both assume that we must think and act. Ayn Rand tells us that the assertive exercise of those rights is a virtue.

Aristotle observed that excellence is not a singular act, but a habit. Ayn Rand again: "While men are still pondering upon the causes of the rise and fall of civilizations, every page of history cries to us that there is but one source of progress: Individual Man in independent action."

Independence is the only path to excellence, the only source of a Second Renaissance.

Consider everything you enjoy in your life: music or drama (and its means of transmission to you, whether radio or live performance or on a CD), gourmet food, stylish clothing or driving a fine automobile, reading a well-crafted novel, watching a classic motion picture or an important sports event, piloting a jet plane (or riding in one), writing a computer program (or using one), living in the desert (in your air-conditioned home), whatever you enjoy, whatever is important to you...

Whatever it is, what you are enjoying is a result of the pursuit of excellence, and excellence can only be achieved by rational, passionate, independent thinkers who have the freedom to act on the thinking they've done.

So what does it all mean, this talk of independence, of the red, white, and blue? Fiji, Chile, Costa Rica, Thailand, Iceland, Croatia all have red, white, and blue. As do Luxembourg, Slovenia, the Marshall Islands, and Slovakia. Ah, but put these two ideas together: imagine what it would mean to you if everyone in every single one of the red, white and blue nations enjoyed total freedom, the freedom to pursue excellence. What does it mean? What would it mean to you?

It means everything. Again, independence is the only path to excellence. In a world--ours--where German automobiles are made in Alabama, where India is a major producer of software, where American animated production is realized in Korea, where Russia has become the most important producer of oil in the world and the United States is one of its largest trading partners, where transit from London to New York can be accomplished in three hours--it is more important than ever that rationality and an individual's freedom to think and act--to excel--independently act be respected, even celebrated.

And there, gentle readers, is my secret, the secret of my subversiveness: I hereby resolve never again to refer to this holiday as "the Fourth," as "July 4th," or as the "Fourth of July." Hell no! It's "Independence Day" from now on, and I urge you to adopt the same habit, and to think on what it means. For every day is Independence Day--for me, for you, and for everyone else who accepts responsibility for his own life, in all of the red, white, and blue nations and in all of the others as well. And that is the only way to bring about a Second Renaissance.

Yes indeed: three cheers for the red, white, and blue!

And a very happy Independence Day to you all.

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