It’s Independence Day in a nation that seems to have chosen ever-increasing dependence.
Archibald MacLeish wrote a poem post-Watergate that if anything, seems even more true today:
Conversation in a Belfry
Centennial bell that will not ring,
Tell me why your iron tongue
Rusts in the rain, your mouth is dumb.
Why are you silent, bell?
You are not shamed.
Not I but you.
We? With all we’ve done and do?
We’ve ruled ourselves two hundred years.
No name on earth is proud as ours.
It was your fathers’ pride that ruled:
Their sons are tricked and lied to, fooled
As Lincoln said no people could be –
All of them – always – for their good!
But still we’re free. Ring out, O ring!
What man is free when fraud is king?
Our souls are ours: our minds our own.
While someone listens on the telephone?
This is John Adams’ holy land…
John Adams would have seen you damned!
When Jefferson’s immortal word…
Jefferson’s immortal word
Is yet to hear. It will be heard
But not by those who sell his soul.
You ring now, bell.
I toll, I toll.
Still, I cling to the idea that there’s a lot of ruin in a nation, and this is a large nation. And while it seems that there is a critical mass of people who are content to live under a soft totalitarianism as long as they are allowed their daily rations of sloth and resentment, the margin is narrow. Even from the desert, even from internal exile, we can dissent. We can struggle for the nation we believe in, even as it is pressed under the stones of envy. We can teach our children that there is virtue in struggle, in resistance, in achievement, even in seemingly lost causes. And when the culture condemns us and sneers at us for struggling, for refusing to fit?
We can declare our independence. It’s a good day for that.