This being the season for celebrating the Declaration of Independence, we might reflect on what made the American Revolution unique in history. The men who confronted the British at Concord Bridge and fired “the shot heard round the world” did so to defend the rights their forbears won in Britain over the course of several hundred years.
The French Revolution and the later Russian revolution were fought to overthrow not merely governments but the values that were the foundation of a way of life the revolutionaries abhorred. The American Colonists, on the other hand, revolted to preserve the values and rights they believed were denied them by an out-of-control government in London.
The men who secured America’s independence created a new nation by drawing on the best within their British heritage. Neither the Declaration of Independence nor the Constitution that followed would have been possible without drawing on those values and rights won in the old country.
Though diminished as a world power, Britain to this day often provides a glimpse of what lies ahead for the United States. Alas, the ideas from London today are very different from those that inspired the early Americans. The Britain that emerged from World War II has been, but for the brief respite provided by Margaret Thatcher, a pretty dismal place. Dismal is what inspires our liberals, who are determined to chip away at the very liberties the American Revolution was fought to guarantee.
Some of them look to Britain’s National Health Service as the model for the kind of health care system they want, ignoring the “death panels” that are essential to the British system, which denies certain care and services to older people, leading to great suffering and early death for many. “Political correctness” was a British passion before liberals here concluded that free speech is an outmoded extravagance, to be denied to those with whom they disagree.
President Obama made a point of sending the bust of Winston Churchill, to which previous presidents had given pride of place, back to London because he doesn’t care much for Britain. He surely likes better the “new Britain” as a model of the nanny state. He has empowered his wife to micromanage the diets of American schoolchildren. Though no admirers of Churchill, they surely applaud the British education minister, who last week decreed that British teachers have a common-law right to plunder the lunch boxes of their students, confiscate disapproved items such as cereal bars, and destroy them.
Only someone dedicated to micromanaging the lives of others would approve, but it’s an idea that has already jumped across the Atlantic. A teacher in Aurora, Colorado, not long ago refused to allow one of her students to eat the Oreo cookie her mother had put in her lunch bag. The teacher further admonished the mother for abusing her daughter by putting such a dangerous cookie in her lunch bag.
Americans of the 18th century could easily distinguish between the good and the bad emanating from the mother country. Today we take the bad, discard the good, and applaud ourselves for how “progressive” we have become.