Like most Americans, I'm going to spend this 4th of July celebrating with friends and family, so if you want to hear any wise, witty or politically charged banter from me on Monday, you're gonna have to head to a tiny little town south of Fresno, follow the sounds of illegal fireworks and a loud, half-Italian guy making a joke out of everything, make a left, and I should be right there on the next corner, trying to light an M80 that the fuse burned out on halfway and getting out of there before it takes my fingers off, as our forefathers would have wanted.
So, for that reason, I'm doing my patriotic salute to everything the 4th of July means to me today. Also, if it gives you something to think about in between knocking whistling Pete's over and shooting them down the street or throwing those blooming flowers at each other and knocking back the ice cold domestic brew, that's gravy on the all-American biscuits.
For those of us who know our 5th grade history (pay attention Sarah Palin and Michele Bachmann) the 4th of July is the day that we celebrate our independence as a nation, hence why we also call it "Independence Day." No, it's not the day Will Smith and Bill Pullman defeated the aliens who were trying to invade Earth, but we did defeat an invading force of illegal aliens, not by firing warning shots to let them know we were armed, but by actually just being armed and shooting them in the face. That's a different story though. The 4th of July is significant because that was the day, back in 1776, that our original thirteen colonies adopted the Declaration of Independence, officially declaring our sovereignty from the Kingdom of Great Britain. After driving the British out of the colonies in the Revolutionary War, the Second Continental Congress declared the legal separation from Great Britain on July 2, 1776. Two days later, the Declaration of Independence was adopted and made the split official. We got custody of the thirteen colonies, Great Britain got to keep the stuff they had when they came in to the relationship, and eventually visitation rights would be granted to both parties.
While the Constitution wouldn't be ratified for 11 more years, the Declaration of Independence laid the most basic framework for the vision our founding fathers had for this new, independent nation. It is in the preamble that this intent is laid out in clear and effective terms.
We hold these truths to be self-evident that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness. That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed.
To understand the vision our founding fathers had for this nation, you must first understand their motivations and goals in founding it in the first place.
Our founding fathers believed in freedom and liberty above all else. They believed in the rights of every man to have equal protection under the law. They believed that every man should have a voice in the decisions of their government, decisions that would affect them and their prosperity or lack thereof. They believed in the rights of every citizen to speak freely, to express themselves without repercussions, to believe and worship as they pleased or not at all. They believed that what a free adult wanted to do in their own home was their right and that the government had no business legislating morality, imposing it's will upon the people or telling any man what he could or couldn't do, so long as he wasn't infringing upon the rights of his fellow Americans to do the same.
This is important to keep in mind, because it was this commitment to preserving freedom and liberty that was the foundation of the Constitution. It was this belief in clearly defining and defending basic freedom and personal liberties that inspired the Bill of Rights. More than anything else, our founding fathers saw America as "The land of the free and the home of the brave." A place where every man was free to live their lives as they saw fit, and brave enough to stand shoulder to shoulder with his countrymen to defend his land and those freedoms when necessary.
There are no qualifiers in the Declaration of Independence or the Constitution. There are no asterisks, no "except in the case of's." Freedom is freedom, liberty is liberty. The language is clear, and simple and solid enough to have stood the test of nearly two and a half centuries of growth as a nation and a civilization.
What this means, in no uncertain terms, is that you can't limit freedoms to only the stuff you approve of. You can't restrict liberty to only those things you want to allow people to do. If you believe in your freedom to be a Christian, then you have to support the freedom of someone else to be a Jew, Muslim, Buddhist or have no religious beliefs at all. If you believe in your freedom to express your opinions, then you have to support the freedom of others to do the same. If you believe in being able to love and marry whomever you want... well, you see where this is going...
See, the founding fathers didn't put an "except for [insert group here]" clause in our founding documents. They didn't say "Freedom and liberty, except when it's stuff we don't approve of." It's an all or none proposition. Either you support ALL freedoms and ALL liberties, or you get out. Either you support marriage equality, or you don't support freedom. Either you support legalizing vices or you don't support freedom. Either you support controversial and unpopular speech, or you don't support freedom.
If I have to support the right of Rush Limbaugh to spew his ignorant, hate-filled rhetoric on the airwaves everyday, then by God, you have to support the right of Keith Olbermann to retort. If I have to support watching Larry King marry an 8th wife less than half his age, then you have to support two loving, committed gay people being able to get married once. If I have to support your right to smoke cigarettes, you have to support my right to smoke pot. If I have to support your right to proclaim your love for God from the mountain top, then you have to support my right to stay at home and watch sports on Sunday. If I have to support your right to bring your brood of screaming, annoying kids to the restaurant and get the table right next to ours, where we can't even hear ourselves talk sitting across from each other over the screaming, yelling, crying and constant scolding while your little bastards run around making a mess out of everything, because apparently either you have raised Tasmanian Devils who leave a wake of destruction in their paths wherever they go, or you just think you don't have to be parents when someone else is cleaning up the mess, or a combination of both... then dammit you don't get to tell me shit if we decide to abort an unwanted pregnancy, lest we suffer the same fate.
Of course, if you know me and follow this blog regularly, you know I'm against abortion personally, but if I want the freedom to do what I want with my own body, then I will gladly respect and defend the rights of women to have that same freedom.
See, that's the point. Living in a free society means exactly that, freedom. It means people are going to do some things that you don't like, but that's their right. It doesn't mean you have to do it too, or even that you have to like it, it just means that, as long as it's not hurting you, you don't get to tell them to stop it.
It means that it's not the government's responsibility to keep nudity or bad language off of television, it's your responsibility to monitor your children's viewing habits. I can't stand being one of the only industrialized first-world nations on Earth with the broadcast censorship policies of a Puritan theocracy, just because parents are too FUCKING lazy to pay attention to what their kids are watching, reading or listening to. YOU chose to have kids, NOT ME, so YOU worry about what they're watching. I'm an adult and I want to hear F-words and see titties and I don't want to have to pay for premium cable to do it. It seems to work just fine for the internet, so what's the problem? Stop letting the government infringe on my freedoms because of your laziness.
It means that it's not the government's responsibility to "protect" your children from homosexuality. First of all, if you still believe that being gay is simply a choice, then we will probably never have a meeting of the minds on this and you should probably skip the rest of this paragraph. However, if you are one of the intelligent people in this country who are aware that homosexuality - true homosexuality - is biological and children know before they are even aware of what sexuality and attraction is that they are either homo or heterosexual, then you should also know that it's not the government's responsibility to handle your child's exposure, or lack thereof, to it. The fact is, your kid is either going to be gay or they aren't. Nothing they learn in school, no one who teaches them and nothing they are exposed to will change that - unless what they're being exposed to is the dick of their priest or creepy uncle when they're impressionable little kids. No one can be "taught" gay. No one ever became gay after hearing a lecture from a gay teacher. No one ever went from straight as can be heterosexual to flaming homo because of something they saw on TV. Gay couples don't automatically raise gay children, and besides, only heterosexual couples can produce children in the first place, so don't blame gay people for the existence of gays, straight people are the ones giving birth to them. At any rate, talk to your kid yourself, don't impose your ignorance on others and don't try to camouflage prejudice as morality.
It means that it's not the government's responsibility to make drugs illegal and prevent you from doing them under penalty of law, it's your responsibility as an adult to not do shit that could ruin your life. It's your responsibility as a parent to educate your own damn kids about good and bad choices. Look, not every child who grows up in this world smokes cigarettes or drinks, yet tobacco and alcohol are legal. Not only are they legal, they're advertised everywhere and on everything. Why isn't every child in this country a chain-smoking alcoholic? Probably because their parents taught them about the dangers of smoking and drinking and educated them about making bad choices that could lead to serious consequences down the road. So, apply the same logic to drugs. If you want to smoke pot, you're an adult, you should be able to. Hey, it's your body, it's your choice. If you want to run the risk of losing a job or not getting one because they have an anti-drug policy, that's the consequence of your choice. If you want to snort coke or shoot heroin, you're an adult, you should be able to. If you want to run the risk of becoming a homeless, trick-turning junkie scumbag who loses everything and ends up in jail because you got caught stealing to support your habit, then that's the consequence of your actions. Understand that, in a free society, if you have the right to become the kind of strung-out shit bag who will try to climb in my window at 3 in the morning to steal some shit to go pawn off to buy more smack, I have the right to empty a full clip in your junkie ass. Freedom, it's a two-way street, and traffic moves fast!
It means that if a consenting, adult woman wants to have sex with men for money and men are willing to pay her for that service, then it's not the government's responsibility to stop them from doing it. Much like the drug problem in this country, prostitution is only as dangerous as it is because it is illegal. When you make an industry illegal, you remove all recourse for those in that industry to settle disputes under law. You leave "street justice" as the only means of ultimately settling disputes. Thus, you create the very violence that you blame on those illegal activities simply by making them illegal in the first place. Alcohol companies don't settle trademark or business practice disputes by shooting it out in the streets. Liquor store owners don't blast on each other for the rights to set up shop on a particular street corner. The Marlboro guy isn't pulling a drive by on the dude from Camel over who gets to have the biggest cardboard display at the mini-mart, they settle any and all legal disputes in court. Also, when prostitution is legalized, it's also regulated and things like mandatory testing for STD's are instated, making it much safer and ensuring that the married man who goes out for a little hooker action on the side doesn't bring herpes home to his pregnant wife. Look at the adult film industry. Essentially, it's legalized prostitution, only with an exclusive clientèle list and it's done on video. The adult film industry mandates monthly STD testing, and as a result, out of tens of thousands of performers who have come and gone (no pun intended) from the industry over the last 4 1/2 decades, the percentage who have contracted STD's is well below the national average for normal, sexually active adults who aren't in the sex industry. The same is true for the state of Nevada, where legalized prostitution has existed for decades, and where regular testing and regulation of the industry is strictly enforced. As a result, women who work in the sex industry in Nevada are paid far higher than anywhere else in the country, they also have an STD infection rate far below the national average, and the abuse, addiction and other problems commonly blamed on the existence of prostitution aren't a problem there. When you have legal recourse, you don't have to work for an abusive pimp, you don't have to settle disputes over compensation with violence, you don't have to be plied with drugs because the money is good by itself. The negative societal impacts of drugs and prostitution exist because of the prohibition. Take away the criminality and you take away the criminals.
You know that old, popular NRA slogan "If guns are outlawed, only outlaws will have guns."? Yeah, it applies to vices as well. If drugs are outlawed, only outlaws will deal them. If prostitution is outlawed, only outlaws will deal in it. Did we learn nothing from the prohibition era? Alcohol was made illegal and it lead to an organized crime gold rush to control the bootlegging market through violence and intimidation on an unprecedented scale. It directly contributed to the rise of organized crime in this country, and yet as soon as prohibition was overturned, the bootlegging stopped, the violence stopped, the criminals in the business were forced to move on to other vices that were still illegal, such as drugs and prostitution... well, what do you know! See, telling people they can't do something never works. There will always be someone willing to assume the legal risk of providing that vice because the harder it is to obtain, the greater the financial reward for doing so. Making vices illegal makes criminals rich, powerful and more than willing to resort to deadly violence to protect their livelihood. Legalizing vices makes them legitimate, regulated and forces the criminals out.
But hey, don't take my word for it. The founding fathers grew hemp. Ben Franklin extolled the virtues of the plant often in his writings. Heroin, hashish and cocaine were prescribed as medicine up until the 40's. Our founding fathers always intended for free men to be able to enjoy vices as they saw fit, so long as they didn't cause harm to others. It's why they wanted to start their own, free nation in the first place - because they were sick of living under the moralistic, tyrannous thumb of the British monarchy. They were tired of having their rights to enjoy vices and do things the church might not have approved of restricted by a king who lived across the world from them. They wanted the freedom and the liberty to pursue their own happiness, and they were willing to fight to the death for it.
So, keep this in mind on Monday when you're blowing shit up while heavily buzzed. You're living the dream of our founding fathers by being able to do exactly that. When you make choices in life for yourself, you are exercising basic freedoms that men fight and die for every day to preserve. But, at the same time, as long as laws exist that restrict freedoms, we are squandering the blessings of liberty. We are acting against the vision of our founding fathers. Sorry, Michele Bachman, but of you met John Q Adams' 8-year old ass right before his father went out to defend our new nation against the British, well... he would have been 8, he probably would have been playing with wooden toys under his mother's watchful eye. His father's secretary? Really? But I digress... His father surely would have told you to stop being such an uptight bitch and go join the British if you want to sit around and tell free Americans what they can and can't do with their bodies all day. Then he would have fired up a big ol' bowl of weed, loaded his musket and told you to either get in the house and start making dinner with his wife, or get your bony ass off his property before he put a ball of lead in your bread basket, and don't disturb the slaves on your way out. Yeah, the founding fathers weren't perfect either, but the documents they drafted were pretty close.