Monday, July 04, 2011
I am enjoying the Fourth of July from Hawaii, one of two states that was once its own country. Some of its citizens might be forgiven for not celebrating American Independence Day, yet they do. It is the idea, rather than fact of the matter. And, of course, the cook-outs, which on the basis of my seven visits here Hawaiians do better than most other Americans.
Yesterday afternoon I was sitting in the Mai Tai Bar at the Royal Hawaiian Hotel drinking, well, a Mai Tai, and reading Ann Coulter's new book (which, by the way, is funnier than her last book -- I was chuckling all afternoon). In a long passage in which she points out that "separation of church and state" is not in the Constitution notwithstanding the claims of liberals to the contrary, Ann trots out a line from Jefferson that got me to thinking:
True, the "separation" phrase comes from a letter written by Thomas Jefferson. He also wrote, "The tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time with the blood of patriots and tyrants," but you don't hear conservatives going around citing the "tree of liberty clause" in the Bill of Rights. Like "the separation of church and state," it's not in the Constitution.
Jefferson was, of course, correct, and the "tree of liberty" idea is as consequentially embedded in our national traditions as "separation of church and state." Most American wars -- not all, but the vast majority -- have been about refreshing the tree of liberty.
There are also non-sanguinary methods for refreshing the tree of liberty, and in today's America they may be the most important. Glenn Reynolds suggests several in this holiday essay, which is well worth reading. To Reynolds' list -- read the essay -- I add this: Support -- or, better, start -- a business that makes your community a more pleasant place to be. Is a local restaurant struggling to get permission for outdoor seating? Does your town building inspector take forever to issue a permit? Do the local regulators pay more attention to the anti-business screamers than the silent majority that believes that new businesses make the community better?
In many communities, a small change in the calculations of local politicians would make it much easier for new businesses to start and grow. The next time the activists oppose a new enterprise, building, or opportunity at a town council meeting, refresh the tree of liberty by standing up against the enemies of progress.
true, the "separation" phrase is not in the Constitution but there is Article VI and the 1st amendment. I would argue that they have the same meaning as the "separation" phrase. It is only recently that some on the left have taken the "separation" concept to mean that the government cannot include people with religious beliefs or that such beliefs are not allowed to be expressed in public life.