Today, Independence Day, we will be treated to all sorts of paeans to the military, the CIA, and other parts of the U.S. national-security state. We will especially be exhorted to praise and thank the troops for defending our rights and freedoms in foreign countries thousands of miles away. All this devotion to big government, militarism, standing armies, empire, interventions, invasions, and occupations will, needless to say, fall under the rubric of “patriotism.”
That’s funny because the people who will be doing all that praising and exhorting have it upside down. That’s because the signers of the Declaration of Independence, which we celebrate today, opposed everything the U.S. government represents today, including big government, standing armies, militarism, and empire.
It’s tempting to think that the Revolutionary War was waged against a foreign government. Nothing could be further from the truth. The people who signed the Declaration were British citizens, not American citizens. They were taking up arms against their very own government.
In other words, the revolutionaries in 1776 were not supporting their troops after the issuance of the Declaration of Independence. They were instead killing the soldiers of their very own government.
Not surprisingly, not everyone considered them to be patriots. Their own government — the British government — certainly did not consider them patriots. The government didn’t like the fact that its troops were being killed by British citizens. The government considered the revolutionaries to be traitors, terrorists, and criminals. If the British government had won the war, people like Washington, Jefferson, Adams, and others would have gone down in history as common criminals or just been long forgotten.
The British revolutionaries taught us a valuable lesson about patriotism. When one’s own government is in the wrong, it is the duty of the citizen to take a firm stand against his own government. That’s what genuine patriotism is all about, not blindly supporting the troops or the government regardless of what they are doing.
The real irony about all this is that the U.S. government, as it has evolved into a gigantic welfare-warfare state, now embodies much of what the British government in 1776 was all about—welfarism, warfarism, regulation, militarism, empire, torture, arbitrary detention, Star Chamber proceedings, foreign wars and interventions, denial of due process, and warrantless searches and monitoring of people’s private activities.
Equally ironic is how many Americans will be celebrating all this big government today as part of their Independence Day celebrations. They’ll consider their paeans to the military and the CIA to be patriotic, falsely convinced that they are following in the tradition of the Revolutionaries in 1776.
Oh well, at least libertarians will be celebrating Independence Day for what it really means — citizen resistance against the wrongdoing of one’s own government. That’s what makes libertarians — who ardently oppose the U.S. government’s big-government welfare-warfare state, together with its political stealing, imperialism, invasions and occupations, torture, arbitrary detention, denial of due process, and assassinations — the genuine patriots, the ones who live their lives in the true spirit and meaning of the Fourth of July.