Every Fourth of July, Americans celebrate the day our Founders declared independence and fought to protect our rights—life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness—from tyranny and injustice.
Across the nation, we celebrated with parades and fireworks, and stood together in our red, white, and blue t-shirts to wave American flags and sing “God Bless America.” Maybe you read a copy of the Declaration of Independence aloud, as is tradition in my family, and, I think, should be done more often. Americans would be right to keep the celebration going beyond the Fourth. Our country is the greatest in the world, and we should remember the values on which it was founded.
What values? Pick up a coin. On the back of every coin, you will find three phrases: “Liberty,” “In God We Trust,” and “E Pluribus Unum.” These three phrases, sometimes called the “American trinity,” define what makes America unique and demonstrate the wisdom of the men who created it.
Maybe you, as so many always do, visited Disneyland on July 4. If you did, perhaps you stepped inside the Great Moments with Mr. Lincoln attraction for a bit of air conditioning and good American patriotism. At the end of the show, Lincoln says (as the real Lincoln did in his Speech at Edwardsville, Illinois on Sept. 11, 1858):
“Our reliance [against tyranny] is in the love of liberty which God has planted in our bosoms. Our defense is in the preservation of the spirit which prizes liberty as the heritage of all men, in all lands, every where. Destroy this spirit, and you have planted the seeds of despotism around your own doors.”
Americans have long treasured their liberty, and we should continue to defend it where it is threatened, whether it is the religious liberty of a Colorado bakery owner or the freedom of speech at UC Berkeley.
As is written in our Declaration of Independence, “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 … ”
Liberty is an essential, God-given human right. Notably, the Declaration states that all men are created equal, not created equally. We have equal rights– which the government is instituted to protect– including the liberty to determine our own outcomes. By keeping liberty close to our hearts, as Lincoln said, we can resist despotism.
In God We Trust
A belief in a higher power not only encourages moral behavior, but helps us protect our rights. Where do our rights come from? As is established above, the Founding Fathers believed rights come from God. Not the government—God. Even a non-religious person should acknowledge the danger that comes when rights are declared not to be innate, but to come from a source such as the government.
“America is founded on the notion that God is the source of values,” said radio talk show host Dennis Prager. “That’s why the Declaration of Independence says that we have inalienable rights, but they’re not from humanism, and they’re not from great thinkers; they are from God. No God– then rights can be taken away by people, because they were given by people. So God is central.”
When the government decides that it is allowed to determine– not just protect– the rights of its citizens, those rights can be taken away. In addition, when the government decides that rights are not innate but can come from other people, its citizens are worse off.
For instance, since our government has determined that its citizens have a right to a minimum wage, the liberty of employers to pay– and of workers to receive– whatever wage both parties agree to is abolished. This is bad news for all, but especially for the people being replaced by machines at McDonald’s (as the fast food chain has already begun to replace cashiers with touch screen kiosks in response to a potential $15 minimum wage). As Erielle Davidson, an economic research assistant at the Hoover Institution in Palo Alto, wrote in the Federalist:
Economists have found minimum wage hikes to be unhelpful in reducing inequality and followed by more low-income workers being laid off, a great number of whom are people of color.
The first of a series of scheduled minimum wage hikes in Seattle in 2015 resulted in a 1 percent drop in the employment rate of Seattle’s low-wage workers and preceded the worst job decline for the city since the 2008-09 recession.
Therefore, it should not be up to the government to determine just what wage its citizens deserve, or to determine any of our rights. Our rights are given to us by God. He said nothing about us making $15 an hour.
E Pluribus Unum: ‘From
This is something that truly makes America unique: while we know that a German is someone from Germany (or the descendant of Germans), an American could come from anywhere. And we do come from all over the world. However, as our coins remind us, we come together as one.
This means that, no matter who we are, we should celebrate American values. After all, the promise of freedom is what brings so many to this country. Our identities– race, class, gender, etc.– have no significance. We must defend this principle, remembering that in the eyes of the law, everyone– man or woman, black or white– should be treated as equals. No one deserves discrimination or special treatment because of his identity.
Any ideology that values promoting the interests of one group at the expense of another (such as of women over men) is dangerous and anti-American. The only identity that matters is that we are all Americans and are thus equal before the law.
“Be ye lovers of freedom, and anxious for the fray,” said Calvin Coolidge.
Let us all remember the values that have made our great country, and anxiously defend our liberties. Remember that our rights come from God and that Americans can come from anywhere, but must come together as one.
Chandler Lasch is a Hillsdale College student who is interning at the Sun.