Inside the Capitol

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Thoughts for July 4


Syndicated Columnist

      SANTA FE – This is a very special day. We have many reasons to celebrate. Considering current events, there is very good reason to be extra patriotic.

   We should pay homage to those patriots who pledged to each other their lives, their fortunes and their sacred honor. Then they signed a document that made them all revolutionaries, guilty of treason, if captured.

   Upon winning that revolution, we became the first revolutionary power and now we are the oldest revolutionary government in the world. We also are holder of the oldest written constitution.

   It was all very infectious. Lafayette returned home after our war and, under George Washington's influence, made it the pet cause of liberals in France and Europe during the 1790s, introducing democracy in many countries throughout the continent.

   Lafayette's friendship with Washington is the subject of Adopted Son, a book by Dave Clary, of Roswell, detailing the relationship between the two and the wide-ranging influence it had on themselves and their countries. It's a good July 4th read.

   At this point in our history, when we're not feeling very good about some of our European allies, it may be helpful to remember the contributions of Lafayette, von Steuben, de Kalb and others, who helped us win our freedom.

   Lafayette's contributions were especially crucial. He's the one who trapped Cornwallis at Yorktown and held him, though grossly outnumbered, until the rest of the American and French forces arrived. And he's the one who won the military and financial support of France for our cause.

   When the United States entered World War I, much of the motivation was gratitude to France for its help so many years earlier. That assistance is now mostly forgotten but at the time, it was poignantly remembered by Gen. George Pershing's aide, Col. Charles Stanton, when he visited Lafayette's tomb on July 4, 1917 to announce, "Lafayette, we are here."

   As we celebrate the document that officially declared the colonies to be in revolution, it is appropriate to remember that it is the only Revolutionary War date that we do celebrate, except for Patriot's Day commemorating the beginning of the War, on April 19, 1775. It still is celebrated in New England, with one of the big events being the Boston Marathon.

   This would be a good day to reread the Declaration of Independence. It is an absolutely brilliant and inspired argument for overthrowing tyranny, and not just in the colonies' circumstance. It was a universal justification applicable to all people and all times.

   Historian Samuel Morrison once said that had the American Revolution produced nothing but the Declaration of Independence, it would have been worthwhile.

   Our founders fully understood that in order to espouse these universal, never-ending truths, they had to make it possible for revolution to occur again, even in their own country.

   Thus came the Bill of Rights. Many of its 10 amendments are under attack today, with questionable searches and seizures, trials that aren't speedy, gun control and public sentiment against the five freedoms guaranteed by the First Amendment.

   The willingness by many to surrender some of our cherished freedoms in return for perceived security is deeply troubling, but of most concern to someone in my business is the indication that many Americans have second thoughts about the First Amendment.

   Polls over the last few years suggest that although Americans still support the ideals of the First Amendment, they have reservations about its reality. A majority think the press has too much freedom, that public demonstrations should not be allowed and that freedom of religion is not meant to apply to fringe groups.

   And although 90 percent of Americans believe in freedom of speech, support falls to less than 50 percent when asked about specifics that are constitutionally protected. We are becoming reluctant to offend, willing  to silence unpopular opinions and provocative ideas at the cost of freedom.

   Where will we go from here?

WED, 7-04-07


JAY MILLER, 3 La Tusa, Santa Fe, NM 87505

(ph) 982-2723, (fax) 984-0982, (e-mail)



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