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By Harold Pease, Ph. D

Following our annual celebration of the 4th of July, sometimes reflection is helpful. A week before this holiday everyone dons a patriotic tie. A week later few do. This is when patriotism is seasonal. The event comes and goes; essentially colors red, white, and blue are popular for a day, and then out. You might even be viewed as “super patriotic” (as though this were bad) were one to wear the tie a second week.

The evening is filled with fireworks (the bigger the better) but few know why. When asked, the most common response is freedom. “Freedom from what or whom?” I ask. If a stare could kill, I’d be dead. There is no real understanding behind the expression. It is rare when anyone answers correctly, “Freedom from excessive government.”

The cause of the American Revolution was excessive government. Some say, “taxation without representation” but this is only a part of excessive government. Every U.S. History text has a chapter dealing with the Revolution. It is filled with the rules and regulations that were most oppressive to the colonists: the Stamp Act, Tea Act, Currency Act, Iron Act, Molasses Act, Sugar Act, even the Hat Act. Such acts were viewed by the colonist as restrictive to their freedom to act independent of governmental permission. Essentially when they came down like rain, as they did just prior to the Revolution, the colonists said why, grieved the rulings without success, then, “Where is my rifle?”

For one day of the year there is peace between liberals and conservatives. Each wears the emblems of the Revolution and demonstrates their patriotism by rising bigger flags, exploding bigger fireworks, eating bigger steaks and guzzling more alcohol. Parades too are non-contentious and show patriotism, but for what? The next day we ask the federal government to manage one-seventh of the economy, whether Obamacare or Trumpcare, totally ignoring the Constitution and the reason for the Revolution.

Few share with their children the reasons behind these symbols and still fewer tie the Declaration of Independence to the Constitution which essentially ended the need for a second revolution by restricting the federal government to a handful of areas in which they can constitutionally restrict our behavior (Article I, Sec. 8), freezing forever, if we adhere to the Constitution as designed, our legislative branch doing the same thing to us as had parliament to the colonists. If the two are not tied together then the American Revolution was just a revolution, rightly commemorated by having a longer weekend and an excuse to get drunk. It is okay then if patriotism becomes mostly seasonal.

Lost in the translation and replaced by the blank stare, previously mentioned, is your right to do most everything you wish without permission from a government located hundreds, often thousands, of miles away. Outside the short list in Article I, Section 8, which, incidentally, has no restrictions on the individual himself, the Constitution left the individual to manage himself. When his behavior offended the right of others to also self-manage, his community, starting at the lowest level (cities, counties, and finally his state government), may regulate his behavior protecting the right of self-managing for others as well.

This is called freedom. And this is the end result of a 13-year transformative period from the Declaration of Independence through the Articles of Federation to the Constitution, which included the Bill of Rights. The federal government constitutionally could only increase its power through Article V, which required the permission of the states.

The collective view of the Founders was to never elevate to a higher level that which could be resolved at a lessor level. Resolvement at the lowest level, the city for example, allows the individual unable to self-manage, to access his elected representatives for redress. He also answers to those he has most directly offended. A more just outcome is likely. Imagine resolvement issues if he had to answer to someone in Washington D. C.

The 4th of July and Constitution Week in September are our best opportunities to share the message of why the Revolution and the Constitution interconnect and are among the more important events in U.S., even world, history. When patriotism is largely seasonal, as it has become, what I have just explained loses its best chance of being remembered and retained when we do not gather our family, church and civic organizations around us using every means to enlightening others.

We are grateful to those who know the real meaning and significance of this event in history and are willing to share it with others. We remain grateful for the bigger fireworks, lights shows, and parades just as long as we do not forget that most of us remain opposed to excessive government, as were those who gave their lives for this cause in the Revolutionary War, whether it comes, as it did for them, from a parliament, or a Congress.

Dr. Harold Pease is a syndicated columnist and an expert on the United States Constitution. He has dedicated his career to studying the writings of the Founding Fathers and applying that knowledge to current events. He has taught history and political science from this perspective for over 30 years at Taft College. To read more of his weekly articles, please visit www.LibertyUnderFire.org.