I'm on the last leg of a three-week trip through the northeast which has included visits to the birthplace of America (Williamsburg, VA), the birthplace of liberty (Boston, MA), the birthplace of the constitution (Philadelphia, PA), and the place where liberty and the constitution and the nation as we know it are dying a slow and tortured death (Washingotn, DC). We've just been in Maine where aberrant Democrats in the state government are massively cutting taxes to stimulate their economy, and are spending the night of the Fourth of July in Lexington where the first shots of the revolution were fired. There are tea parties and protests scheduled all around us, but they seem futile against the entropic force of the tide of history.
Although our primary purpose has been vacationing and visiting colleges with my teenage daughter, we've walked in the footsteps of history the whole way, in the classrooms where Jefferson studied and on a campus common where Franklin used to take a daily walk, through mountains where Ethan Allen stalked the redcoats and beside a canal whose route was planned by George Washington. On the Fourth there may not be parades or fireworks because the unusually wet weather and reduced city budgets have taken a harsh toll on the festivities. And it may be that people aren't really in a mood to celebrate in a country where the very idea of independence has become devalued. As our legislators consider massive tax expansions and cradle-to-grave state mandated health care, it's easy to believe that the people who inhabit this land today are not even the descendants of the heroes who fought and died for liberty and to remain independent.
The pilgrims, the pioneers, and the minutemen who created this nation prized independence, responsibility, and self-determination above everything else. They didn't want a far off church or government or its minions to tell them what to do or how to live or provide them with services they never asked for. They didn't even want their neighbors to be too close and thought government was best when it was small and far away. They moved west generation by generation to stay out of the close reach of government. They thought this was an important enough issue to risk their lives, uproot their families, and ultimately go to war over.
Today too many Americans have forgotten the value of independence and rush to suck at the teat of the mother state, with no guilt or shame about plundering their hard-working neighbors to make sure they get their unearned share of the pie. We've become a nation of spoiled children infantilized by the state and given no more liberty than an illusion needed to keep us docile. They send their children to be educated by the state so that they can serve the state and when they grow they send them to war at the command of the state. Groupthink and conformity have replaced reason and individuality and the idea of independence is alien to the fear-driven slave mentality which grips the land.
Even the act of driving these historic routes leaves me somewhat embittered, because for most of our journey we've had the pleasure and sad irony of driving in what may be one of the last great American cars, the 2009 Dodge Charger. The Charger embodies everything that made American cars great. It's big, it's powerful, it's comfortable, solid, and reliable. It actually gets pretty good gas mileage, but the luxury and sports car power which it represents are inherently incompatible with a future of spit and cardboard Obamamobiles.
The freedom which a powerful American car represents to go anywhere and do it in comfort and at ridiculous speeds is inherently incompatible with the new mindset of the nation. An elegant and powerful car like the Charger sets people free and it's a threat to the new vision of America. We can kiss our Chargers and Mustangs and SUVs goodbye and give up their freedom for a bus schedule and a sweat-stained plastic bench. The final irony is that we have to pin our automotive hopes on Fiat. In politics the Italians have recently begun to develop a bizarre independent streak despite being the low man on the EU totem pole, and that contrariness may carry over to business and manufacturing. As a former Fiat owner (twice) I have my doubts, but the Alfa Romeo Milano remains the closest thing to an American car built on the continent. Slim hope against the growing wave of conformity.
As we near Boston and the sun comes out for a bit after three weeks of unseasonal rain, and the summer temperature ventures towards the 70s (global warming my ass), the question which sticks with me is whether today's Americans understand what they are have given up or will even miss the independence this day commemorates and which our nation was founded on. This Charger is the last gasp of that spirit, slapped down by what P. J. O'Rourke calls the "fun-killers" who hate what they can't control and have been working in the schools and courthouses to make independence and achievement and individuality dirty words and forbidden concepts. Maybe we should just give up Independence Day. There's nothing to celebrate when we've come to hold the values on which this nation was founded in so little regard. If you have given up the independence which once defined America, are you even entitled to celebrate Independence Day?