Remembering our American forefathers

BY GUEST OPINION | JULY 01, 2011 7:20 AM

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Thomas Paine, the catalytic firebrand who set the American Revolution ablaze, saw the uprising as America’s chance to free itself from the transatlantic tether of British dominion and as an opportunity to “begin the world anew.” But when the fortitude of the colonial soldiers faltered under the growing apprehension that “the royal brute of Britain” would crush their rebellion and have their heads, Paine also saw the possibility of his compatriots abandoning their cause and becoming, once again, servant-minded “subjects” of the king.

Never faint of heart, he encouraged Americans to brave their fears and stand resolute against the urge to surrender. In support of his appeal, he presented a voluminous catalogue of injustices — from “taxation without representation” to the embargo of free trade to the massacre at Boston to the Sugar, Stamp and Quartering Acts — that the “mother country” had forced upon the colonies.
Paine exhorted his fellow colonists to remain mindful of those abuses and to hold firm for the freedom of mankind:

“O! ye that love mankind! Ye that dare oppose not only the tyranny but the tyrant, stand forth! Every spot of the old world is overrun with oppression. Freedom hath been hunted round the Globe.”

Emboldened by Paine’s exhortation, the colonial soldiers recovered their confidence and fought on to defeat the British Redcoats. From the triumph of that victory, our Founding Fathers did “begin the world anew.” They wrote the Declaration of Independence that built a home for the “fugitive,” freedom — a sanctuary wherein the “rights of man” were recognized as “self-evident” and protected as sovereign and inviolable. A new world, indeed.

Since the date of our freedom’s birth, July 4, 1776, each succeeding generation of Americans have advanced us forward to this July 4, 2011 — still a free people.

Recently, however, our enthusiasm for passing on the incredible history of freedom has ebbed to a level just shy of ho-hum. Many young Americans are left to think that our present way of life is life as it has always been. This misguided view of past and present, of cause and effect, is the consequence of the notion that knowledge of our history is “optional,” not necessary.

As we lose more and more linkage with our past, we lose more and more interest in the origin of our freedom. “We the people” know too little about the ruthless cruelty of government power prior to the success of our rebellion. We know too little about the magnificent heroes of the American Revolution, who risked everything to wrest the freedom of mankind from the folly of the “hereditary right of kings.” And we know too little about our ancestral determination to succeed as an independent nation of self-reliant people.

A common response to the invention of a great societal product is that we, who enjoy its benefits, rarely concern ourselves with the laborious effort it took to bring that product into existence — and to make it work.

Such is the attitude of indifference that meets our freedom today.

Were we to scrap the habit of “playing down” the success we have made of our freedom, it would come clear to us that America is a force for good in the world, that we are an accomplished people, that we still cherish and champion the “rights of man,” and that, just as the cost to gain freedom was worth the price, the price to keep freedom is worth the cost.

On this Fourth of July, the 235th anniversary of our Declaration of Independence: Happy Birthday, America.

Orlis Trone lives in Fernley, Nev.

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