It’s “pursuit of happiness”- not “right of happiness” – in the famous Declaration of Independence quote. That’s why to me today’s July 4th celebration takes on significance beyond the obvious. A growing number of Americans now think happiness – or at least the path to it – is guaranteed, and the government must provide the means. For instance, for education, a mortgage (or relief from paying for one), cash for your bad cars (“clunkers”), special deals for “green” technology (another government handout), retirement pay, bailouts, even free money “from Obama’s stash.”
Government will solve all your problems – even happiness. That’s not what the founders believed.
In their Declaration of Independence, they wrote, “All men are created equal…endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights (including) Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.” While not inserted specifically, that spirit was carried over to the Constitution. As Founder Ben Franklin pointed out, “The Constitution only gives people the right to pursue happiness. You have to catch it yourself.”
That quote goes to the dark heart of the cultural-political conflict seething today.
The founders knew relying on government for more than essentials meant turning their freedom over to human failings. Eventually, an elite minority, isolated at the top in an “ivory tower” of power, fueled by self-interest and press adulation, would become incorrigible, despotic.
And that’s what has happened today. The July 4th, 1776 promise of equality through opportunity has been turned into an unfair and restricted gold mine for those who play the system. A minority of elites do not listen to the people, who the polls clearly show are against what they are doing. The minority imposes – or tries to impose – universal heath care, amnesty for illegals, job-killing environmental regulations, bailouts for failed businesses when the average American in the majority would have to go into bankruptcy or prison for similar transgressions. They even demand the use of new light bulbs.
The tyranny of the minority is now with us, not only from the minority in power, but from minorities in general, all of whom seem to be favored by the power elite who, it is increasingly believed, see them as votes to perpetuate their power. Black Panthers can now intimidate voters and the Justice Department does nothing. Similarly, we play at closing our borders. Why?
Not a day passes, it seems, that Harry Reid, one of the leaders on the Left – one side of the conflict – doesn’t inform the press that “the American people” demand some kind of entitlement. He then urges his fellow privileged lawmakers to grant it with taxpayer money – money that ordinary citizens lost when Reid and other privileged colleagues bailed out failing banks, corporations and investment firms that should have succumbed as would have been the fate of most unprivileged who, in many cases, lost homes and lifetime savings. In the meantime, we hear that members of Congress have made out very well during these tough times.
Representative of Middle America – the side that has taken the brunt of the crash – is the Tea Party, unjustly accused of racism by the Left which derisively calls its members “Tea baggers,” a foul and offensive term that if used against the Left would probably have brought Justice Department charges of gay bashing. But the Tea Party is on the Right, whose side the press is not. So nothing is done.
Middle Americans are mad – and rightfully so. By and large, they paid their mortgages on time, played by the rules, and tightened their belts when they had to. They suffered with quiet resentment the growing intrusion of government regulations in their lives and businesses – until recently. As unfairness grew – the unfairness that the founders had tried to prevent by making “opportunity” the criteria for success, not entitlement – the majority who had played by the rules and had lost because of it, had enough. They rebelled, marching on Washington, forming the Tea Party. Nothing changes a game like cheating.
So the nation is divided into starkly opposite sides now – those who believe that only the “pursuit” of happiness is celebrated this July 4th , and those who believe in entitlements, ie, things should be given them without working for them and even if they are taken from those who did work for them. It is nearing the kind of inequality that spurred our Civil War. If not rectified in the next election, it might spur violence. There are rumblings out there. Happy 4th. We are a nation that prides itself on freedom – not elite rule. We must stay that way.